One of a series of industrial energy efficiency sourcebooks

Improving Fan System Performance
a sourcebook for industry





U.S. Department of Energy Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Bringing you a prosperous future where energy is clean, abundant, reliable, and affordable





Improving Fan System Performance: A Sourcebook for Industry has been developed by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Industrial Technologies Program and the Air Movement and Control Association International, Inc. (AMCA), a DOE Allied Partner. Industrial Technologies and AMCA International undertook this project as part of a series of sourcebook publications on motor-driven equipment under the BestPractices effort. Other topics in this series include compressed air systems, pumping systems, and motors and drives. For more information about the Industrial Technologies’ BestPractices effort and AMCA International, see Section 3. AMCA International is a not-for-profit association of the world’s manufacturers of related air system equipment—primarily, but not limited to fans, louvers, dampers, air curtains, airflow measurement stations, acoustic attenuators, and other air system components—for industrial, commercial, and residential markets. The association’s mission is to promote the health and growth of industries covered by its scope and the members of the association consistent with the interests of the public. DOE, AMCA International, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Resource Dynamics Corporation thank the staff at the many organizations that so generously assisted in the collection of data for this sourcebook. The contributions of the following participants are appreciated for their review and input to this sourcebook: Gary Benson, The New York Blower Company Frank Breining, Airmaster Fan Company Don Casada, Diagnostic Solutions, LLC Brad Gustafson, U.S. Department of Energy Tom Gustafson, Hartzell Fan, Inc. Tony Quinn, American Fan Company & Woods USA Division Paul Saxon, Air Movement and Control Association International, Inc. Bill Smiley, The Trane Company Sastry Varanasi, ABB Fan Group North America Dick Williamson, Twin City Fan Companies, Ltd. Ron Wroblewski, Productive Energy Solutions

Prepared for:

The United States Department of Energy Air Movement and Control Association International, Inc.

Prepared by:

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Washington, DC Resource Dynamics Corporation Vienna, VA

Cover photo credit: Copyright© CML Northern Blower Inc., 1989. All rights reserved. This image may not be reproduced, stored, or transmitted in any form or means without the prior written consent of the copyright holder.

Introduction to Fan Systems

Section 1: Introduction to Fan Systems
Fans1 are widely used in industrial and commercial applications. From shop ventilation to material handling to boiler applications, fans are critical for process support and human health. In the manufacturing sector, fans use about 78.7 billion kilowatt-hours2 of energy each year. This consumption represents 15 percent of the electricity used by motors.3 Similarly, in the commercial sector, electricity needed to operate fan motors composes a large portion of the energy costs for space conditioning. Performance may range from “free air” to several pounds per square inch gage (psig)4, with airflow from a few cubic feet per minute (cfm) to more than 1 million cfm. Pressures above 15 psig generally require air compressors, which are addressed in a separate sourcebook titled Improving Compressed Air System Performance, A Sourcebook for Industry. In manufacturing, fan reliability is critical to plant operation. For example, where fans serve material handling applications, fan failure will immediately create a process stoppage. In industrial ventilation applications, fan failure will often force a process to be shut down (although there is often enough time to bring the process to an orderly stoppage). Even in heating and cooling applications, fan operation is essential to maintain a productive work environment. Fan failure leads to conditions in which worker productivity and product quality declines. This is especially true for some production applications in which air cleanliness is critical to minimizing production defects (for example, plastics injection molding and electronic component manufacturing). In each case, fan operation has a significant impact on plant production. The importance of fan reliability often causes system designers to design fan systems conservatively. Concerned about being responsible for under-performing systems, designers tend to compensate for uncertainties in the design process by adding capacity to fans. Unfortunately, oversizing fan systems creates problems that can increase system operating costs while decreasing fan reliability. Fans that are oversized for their service requirements do not operate at their best efficiency points. In severe cases, these fans may operate in an unstable manner because of the point of operation on the fan airflow-pressure curve. Oversized fans generate excess flow energy, resulting in high airflow noise and increased stress on the fan and the system. Consequently, oversized fans not only cost more to purchase and to operate, they create avoidable system performance problems. The use of a “systems approach” in the fan selection process will typically yield a quieter, more efficient, and more reliable system.

There are two primary types of fans: centrifugal and axial. These types are characterized by the path of the airflow through the fan. Centrifugal fans use a rotating impeller to increase the velocity of an airstream. As the air moves from the impeller hub to the blade tips, it gains kinetic energy. This kinetic energy is then converted to a static pressure increase as the air slows before entering the discharge. Centrifugal fans are capable of generating relatively high pressures. They are frequently used in “dirty” airstreams (high moisture and particulate content), in material handling applications, and in systems at higher temperatures.

1 For the purposes of this sourcebook, the term “fan” will be used for all air-moving machines other than compressors. 2 United States Industrial Electric Motor Systems Market Opportunities Assessment, U. S. Department of Energy, December 1998. 3 Ibid. 4 At standard conditions, a column of water 27.68 inches high exerts 1 psig of pressure. Equivalently, 1 inch of water gage =

0.036 psig.

A Sourcebook for Industry


Introduction to Fan Systems
Axial fans, as the name implies, move an airstream along the axis of the fan. The air is pressurized by the aerodynamic lift generated by the fan blades, much like a propeller and an airplane wing. Although they can sometimes be used interchangeably with centrifugal fans, axial fans are commonly used in “clean air,” low-pressure, high-volume applications. Axial fans have less rotating mass and are more compact than centrifugal fans of comparable capacity. Additionally, axial fans tend to have higher rotational speeds and are somewhat noisier than in-line centrifugal fans of the same capacity; however, this noise tends to be dominated by high frequencies, which tend to be easier to attenuate. Designers tend to protect against being responsible for inadequate system performance by “overspecifying.” However, an oversized fan/motor assembly creates a different set of operating problems, including inefficient fan operation, excess airflow noise, poor reliability, and pipe/duct vibrations. By describing some of the problems and costs associated with poor fan selection, this sourcebook is intended to help designers and operators improve fan system performance through better fan selection and improved operating and maintenance practices. Noise. In industrial ventilation applications, noise can be a significant concern. High acoustic levels promote worker fatigue. The noise generated by a fan depends on fan type, airflow rate, and pressure. Inefficient fan operation is often indicated by a comparatively high noise level for a particular fan type. If high fan noise levels are unavoidable, then ways to attenuate the acoustic energy should be considered. Noise reduction can be accomplished by several methods: insulating the duct; mounting the fan on a soft material, such as rubber or suitable spring isolator as required to limit the amount of transmitted vibration energy; or installing sound damping material or baffles to absorb noise energy. Rotational Speed. Fan rotational speed is typically measured in revolutions per minute (rpm). Fan rotational speed has a significant impact on fan performance, as shown by the following fan laws:

◆ Fan Selection
Fan selection is a complex process that starts with a basic knowledge of system operating requirements and conditions such as airflow rates, temperatures, pressures, airstream properties, and system layout. The variability of these factors and other considerations, such as cost, efficiency, operating life, maintenance, speed, material type, space constraints, drive arrangements, temperature, and range of operating conditions, complicate fan selection. However, knowledge of the important factors in the fan selection process can be helpful for the purposes of reducing energy consumption during system retrofits or expansions. Often, a fan type is chosen for nontechnical reasons, such as price, delivery, availability, or designer or operator familiarity with a fan model. If noise levels, energy costs, maintenance requirements, system reliability, or fan performance are worse than expected, then the issue of whether the appropriate fan type was initially selected should be revisited. Fans are usually selected from a range of models and sizes, rather than designed specifically for a particular application. Fan selection is based on calculating the airflow and pressure requirements of a system, then finding a fan of the right design and materials to meet these requirements. Unfortunately, there is a high level of uncertainty associated with predicting system airflow and pressure requirements. This uncertainty, combined with fouling effects and anticipated capacity expansion, encourages the tendency to increase the specified size of a fan/motor assembly.

Airflowfinal = Airflowinitial


final initial


Pressurefinal = Pressureinitial

( RPM )
initial initial


Powerfinal = Powerinitial

( RPM )

RPMfinal 3


Improving Fan System Performance

Introduction to Fan Systems
Rotational speed must be considered concurrently with other issues, such as variation in the fan load, airstream temperature, ambient noise, and mechanical strength of the fan. Variations and uncertainties in system requirements are critical to fan type and fan rotational speed selection. Fans that generate high airflow at relatively low speeds (for example, forward-curved blade centrifugal fans) require a relatively accurate estimate of the system airflow and pressure demand. If, for some reason, system requirements are uncertain, then an improper guess at fan rotational speed can cause under-performance or excessive airflow and pressure. Airstream temperature has an important impact on fan-speed limits because of the effect of heat on the mechanical strength of most materials. At high temperatures, all materials exhibit lower yield strengths. Because the forces on shafts, blades, and bearings are proportional to the square of the rotational speed, high-temperature applications are often served by fans that operate at relatively low speeds. Airstream Characteristics. Moisture and particulate content are important considerations in selecting fan type. Contaminant build-up on fan blades can cause severe performance degradation and fan imbalance. Build-up problems are promoted by a shallow blade angle with surfaces that allow contaminants to collect. Fans with blade shapes that promote low-velocity air across the blades, such as backward inclined fans, are susceptible to contaminant build-up. In contrast, radial tip fans and radial blade fans operate so that airflow across the blade surfaces minimizes contaminant build-up. These fans are used in “dirty” airstreams and in material handling applications. Corrosive airstreams present a different set of problems. The fan material, as well as the fan type, must be selected to withstand corrosive attack. Also, leakage into ambient spaces may be a concern, requiring the fan to be equipped with a shaft seal. Shaft seals prevent or limit leakage from around the region where the drive shaft penetrates the fan housing. For example, in corrosive environments fans can be constructed with expensive alloys that are strong and corrosion resistant, or they can be less expensively constructed with fiberglassreinforced plastic or coated with a corrosionresistant material. Because coatings are often less expensive than superalloy metals, fan types that work well with coatings (for example, radial fan blades because of their simple shape) are widely used in corrosive applications; however, wear will reduce the reliability of coatings. Alternately, materials such as reinforced fiberglass plastics have been developed for fan applications and function effectively in many corrosive environments. However, there may be size and speed limitations for composite materials and plastic materials. Airstreams with high particulate content levels can also be problematic for the fan drive train. In direct drive axial fans, the motor is exposed to the airstream. Sealed motors can be used in these applications but tend to be more expensive and, in the event of lost seal integrity, they are susceptible to expensive damage. In axial fans, belt drives offer an advantage by removing the motor from the airstream. In centrifugal fans, the particulate content is less of a factor because the motor or sheave can be located outside of the fan enclosure and connected to the impeller through a shaft seal. Gear drives are occasionally used in applications where speed reduction is required but the use of belt drives is unfeasible because of access or maintenance requirements. In flammable environments, fans are usually constructed of nonferrous alloys to minimize the risk of sparks caused by metal-to-metal contact. In some applications, certain components of the fan can be fabricated out of spark-resistant materials. Fans that operate in flammable environments should be properly grounded, including rotating components, to minimize sparking because of static discharge. Temperature Range. To a large degree, temperature range determines fan type and material selection. In high-temperature environments, many materials lose mechanical strength. The stresses on rotating components increase as the fan’s operating speed increases. Consequently, for high-temperature applications, the fan type that requires the lowest operating speed for a particular service is often recommended. Radial blade fans can be ruggedly constructed and are frequently used in

A Sourcebook for Industry


the effect on fan system performance can be severe in terms of maintenance costs. When evaluating fan performance. System designers should include fan system operating costs as a consideration in configuring fan assemblies and ductwork. Although this design practice may free up floor space. Because downtime is often costly. The equation for total efficiency is: Total Efficiency = Total Pressure x Airflow bhp x 6. then some version of a flow straightener should be considered to improve the operating efficiency. Applications that have widely fluctuating operating requirements should not be served by fans that have unstable operating regions near any of the expected operating conditions. Selecting a compact fan can free up valuable floorspace. Maintenance access addresses the need to inspect. repair. The use of multiple elbows close to a fan inlet or outlet can create a costly system effect. with an elbow just upstream or downstream of a fan). Best Efficiency Point. small ducts. see the fact sheet titled Configurations to Improve Fan System Efficiency on page 39. For more information. Moving a fan’s operating point away from its BEP increases bearing loads and noise. Fan Performance Curves Fan performance is typically defined by a plot of developed pressure and power required over a range of fan-generated airflow. Another term for efficiency that is often used with fans is static efficiency. One way to accomplish this is to use small-radius elbows. and very compact fan assemblies.362 Where: Total Pressure is in inches of water Airflow is in cubic feet per minute (cfm) bhp is brake horsepower An important aspect of a fan performance curve is the best efficiency point (BEP). quick access to a fan can provide future cost savings. where a fan operates most cost-effectively in terms of both energy efficiency and maintenance considerations. and different alloys can be selected to provide the necessary mechanical properties at elevated temperatures. corrected for units consistency. it is important to know which efficiency term is being used. Fan weight. which uses static pressure instead of total pressure in the above equation. and operating a fan system and is the key to optimum fan selection. Space and structural constraints can have a significant impact on fan selection. such as a recirculation line. Because axial. In addition to dimensional constraints on the space available for the fan itself. Foundation and structural requirements depend on the size and weight of a fan. Because non-uniform airflow can increase the pressure drop across a duct fitting and will degrade fan performance. Understanding this relationship is essential to designing. Space Constraints. affect installation cost. Variations in Operating Conditions. and the added pressure drops caused by small duct size or a cramped duct configuration can significantly increase fan operating costs. speed. in turn. and size usually determine the foundation requirements. issues such as maintenance access. Operating a fan near its BEP improves its performance and reduces wear. which.Introduction to Fan Systems high-temperature environments. 6 Improving Fan System Performance . straightening the airflow will lower operating costs. Fan efficiency is the ratio of the power imparted to the airstream to the power delivered by the motor. allowing longer intervals between repairs. sourcing. Component materials also significantly influence a fan’s ability to serve in high-temperature applications. these fans are not recommended for this type of service unless there is a means of avoiding operation in the unstable region. backwardinclined airfoil. or some type of anti-stall device. and ductwork must be considered. a bleed feature. An important tradeoff regarding space and fan systems is that the cost of floor space often motivates designers and architects to configure a fan system within a tight space envelope. or replace fan components. and forward-curved fans tend to have unstable regions. foundation and structural support requirements. The power of the airflow is the product of the pressure and the flow. If the available space requires a fan to be located in a difficult configuration (for example.

the fan attempts to generate more airflow. This cyclic behavior results in a searching action that creates a sound similar to breathing.000 9. as the backpressure on the fan decreases. the system pressure also decreases. Initial fan start-up is the commissioning of the fan. A fan operating in this region can have unstable operation.000 Airflow Rate (cfm) Figure 1-1. meaning they require significant torque to reach operating speed. Like other rotating machinery.000 8.000 18. Fan Start-Up. have a large rotational inertia (often referred to as WR2). Static Pressure (in.Introduction to Fan Systems Region of Instability.000 16.000 11. which causes the system pressure to increase.000 3.000 15. fan curves arc downward from the zero flow condition—that is. Most fans have an operating region in which their fan performance curve slopes in the same direction as the system resistance curve. Instability results when the fan curve intersects the system curve at more than one point.000 6. which can be costly both in terms of the fan itself and in production losses. Poor fan installation can cause early failure.000 12. the process of ensuring proper installation.0). system curves pass through (0.000 13. causing the fan to hunt. Many fans. Region of Instability5 5 Although fan system curves can have a static component.000 14.) Instability results from the fan’s interaction with the system. In general. 26 24 22 20 18 Region of Instability In this region. reducing the generated airflow. for the purposes of this sourcebook. particularly centrifugal types. Start-up refers to two different issues in the fan industry. proper fan operation usually requires correct drive alignment. Fan start-up is also the acceleration of a fan from rest to normal operating speed. and the fan responds by generating more airflow. the slopes of the fan curve and the system curve are near parallel. and true fit-up to connecting ductwork. wg) 16 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 Slope Lines System Curves Fan Curve 2. adequate foundation characteristics. (See Figure 1-1. the airflow increases.000 10. A Sourcebook for Industry 7 . This operating instability promotes poor fan efficiency and increases wear on the fan components.000 17. This event is important for several reasons.000 5. As airflow decreases.000 7.000 4.

System Effect.). baffles.5 to 2 times the operating current. grills. system dampers can be positioned to reduce the load on the fan motor during start-up. controllable pitch fans offer a similar advantage with respect to reducing start-up current. which allows the motor to reach operating speed more quickly. louvers. 8 Improving Fan System Performance . in reality. However. elbows. For more information on how to minimize losses.Introduction to Fan Systems In addition to the WR2 load. For example. it may be a design consideration in large industrial applications. then system effect consequences should be incorporated into the fan selection process. However. the power drops off after reaching a peak). large fan start-ups should be performed with downstream dampers closed. However. In axial fan applications. once there. Because the start-up current for most motors is 2 to 5 times the running current.097 ) 2 ρ ∆p = pressure loss in inches of water gage (in. The power surges that accompany the starting of large motors can create problems. wg) C = loss coefficient for the component V = velocity in feet per minute ρ = density of the airstream (0. In many applications. the stress on the motor can be significantly reduced by starting a fan under its minimum mechanical load and allowing the motor to achieve normal operating speed more quickly than when under full load. including special devices known as soft starters. there are exceptions to these guidelines. see the fact sheet titled Controlling Fans with Variable Loads on page 43. filters. the system curve is calculated by adding the losses of each system component (dampers. A key advantage of variable frequency drives (VFDs) is that they are often equipped with soft starting features that decrease motor starting current to about 1. they can significantly reduce the impact of fan starts on an electrical system. the air mass moved by the fan also adds to the start-up torque requirements on the fan motor. Typically. non-uniform airflow profiles that are created as the airstream develops swirls and vortices cause system components to exhibit losses that are higher than their loss coefficients. Consequently. electrical equipment manufacturers are offering many different technologies. tees. during the design process. to allow gradual motor speed acceleration. while for most axial fan types. In response to increasing demand for equipment that minimizes the problems associated with large motor starts. if space constraints prevent an ideal system layout. the motor operates efficiently. Proper motor selection is essential in ensuring that the fan can be brought to its operating speed and that. start-ups should be performed with these dampers open.075 pounds per cubic foot at standard conditions) The result of this equation is a parabolic line. This system curve assumes all components display pressure loss characteristics according to their loss coefficients. The system effect is the change in system performance that results from the interaction of system components. Shifting the blades to a low angle of attack reduces the required start-up torque of the fan. the power required by a centrifugal fan tends to increase with increasing flow (although in “non-overloading” fan types. for most centrifugal fan types. see the fact sheet titled Configurations to Improve Fan System Efficiency on page 39. The governing equation for pressure loss across any particular component is: ∆p = C Where: V ( 1. Although VFDs are primarily used to reduce operating costs. The overall effect of these added losses is to move the system curve up. The system effect can be minimized by configuring the system so that the flow profile remains as uniform as possible. wyes. ventilation. the power tends to decrease with increasing flow. as shown by the corrected system curve in Figure 1-2. For more information on VFDs and controllable pitch fans. etc. as shown by the system curve in Figure 1-2. Although rotational inertia is not typically a problem in heating. and air conditioning (HVAC) applications. Among the effects of a large start-up current are power quality problems and increased wear on the electrical system. and the actual power curve for the fan should be evaluated to determine how to soften the impact of a large fan start-up. In axial fans. ducts.

000 6. flow control devices. designers and operators must understand how other system components function as well.Introduction to Fan Systems 26 24 22 20 18 Fan Curve System Curve (as calculated) System Curve (with system effect) Static Pressure (in.000 7.000 5. a drive system.000 17. For example. and reduced system reliability. heat exchangers.or 480-volt power. An example system is illustrated in a diagram on page 10.000 9. Fan System Components A typical fan system consists of a fan. Prime Movers. This can require an increase in fan speed. high maintenance. which in turn results in an increase in power and a decrease in system efficiency. many designers overcompensate for it and other uncertainties by selecting oversized fans. Most are induction motors supplied with three-phase.000 14.000 11.000 13.000 4. placing an elbow close to the fan outlet can create a system effect that decreases the delivered flow by up to 30 percent. cooling coils. System Effect for a Typical Fan and System The system effect can be particularly problematic when the airflow into or out of a fan is disrupted into a highly non-uniform pattern. The “systems approach” requires knowing the interaction between fans. Poor configuration of ductwork leading to or from a fan can severely interfere with a fan’s ability to efficiently impart energy to an airstream. This practice creates problems such as high energy costs. and air conditioning equipment (filters. wg) 16 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 2. etc. ducts or piping.000 15.000 Actual Performance 8.000 12. A more reasonable approach is to combine proper system layout practices with an accurate estimate of the system effect to determine an appropriate fan size.000 18. To effectively improve the performance of fan systems. Most industrial fans are driven by alternating current (AC) electric motors.000 Expected Performance 16.).000 10. Although underestimating the system effect causes insufficient air delivery. an electric motor. and the components that are served by fans. 240. the equipment that supports fan operation.000 3. Because power supplies are typically rated at slightly higher voltages than motors because of anticipated voltage drops in the A Sourcebook for Industry 9 .000 Airflow Rate (cfm) Figure 1-2.

10 Improving Fan System Performance . Example Fan System Components distribution system. for high run-time applications. Upgrading to a new motor can reduce operating costs. actual operating speeds are usually around 2 percent less than their nominal speeds. the efficiency of general-purpose motors has significantly improved.800 rpm with a 60-hertz power supply. rated operating speeds for this motor are usually around 1. In recent years. For applications that can effectively use this additional output. For example. These improvements are also attributable to the Energy Policy Act (EPAct). which for most motors went into effect in October 1997. because of efforts by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) and motor manufacturers. EPActefficiency motors operate with less slip.7 percent at rated load. Although initial costs of the motors have increased 10 to 20 percent. if the additional output is not useful. indicating that slip rates are a little over 2. To improve motor efficiency. or the difference between the speed of the magnetic field and the speed of the motor shaft. this high efficiency can be attractive. However. a theoretical four-pole induction motor with no slip would rotate at 1. Consequently. motors are typically rated at 230 or 460 volts. the added power consumption increases operating costs. resulting in slight changes in motor operating characteristics. A characteristic of induction motors is that their torque is directly related to slip. in many fans. because of improved motor efficiency.Introduction to Fan Systems Turning Vanes (typically used on short-radius elbows) Outlet Diffusers Heat Exchanger Baffles Filter Inlet Vanes Motor Controller Centrifugal Fan Belt Drive Motor Variable Frequency Drive Figure 1-3.750 rpm. however. while offering slightly improved fan performance. improvements in motor efficiency create very attractive paybacks through lower operating costs. motor manufacturers have modified motor designs and incorporated better materials. Fans that are driven by older motors are probably operating at much lower efficiencies and at higher levels of slip than what is available from new motors. which means fans rotate at slightly higher speeds.

or four speeds. Although ASDs are generally not a practical option for fans that are only required to operate at one speed. such as voltage sag. In fact.600 rpm). There are different cost and operating advantages to each type. In general. including standard belts.800. In axial fans. This is a simple. However. belt drives keep the motor out of the airstream. Soft starters are electrical devices that are often installed with a motor controller to reduce the electrical stresses associated with the start-up of large motors. Another common characteristic of motors used in fan applications is multiple speed capability. the high in-rush and starting currents associated with most AC motors creates power quality problems. direct drives have some important advantages. In general. The sensitivity of fan output to its operating rotational speed means that errors in estimating the performance requirements can make a direct-drive system operate inefficiently (unlike belt drives. soft starters are becoming important parts of many motor control systems. one twice that of the other. In axial fans. belt drives allow flexibility in changing fan speed. three. However. As industrial facilities increase the use of computer-based equipment and control systems. The first type of motor is known as a consequent pole motor and usually allows two operating speeds. Motors can be built to operate at different speeds in two principal ways: as a single set of windings equipped with a switch that energizes or de-energizes an additional set of poles. Synchronous belts are highly efficient because they use a meshtype contact that limits slippage and can lower operating costs. while V-belts are the most commonly used. the flow control benefit of different motor speeds makes them attractive for many fan applications. and 3.200. each of which energizes a different number of poles. efficient system but has less flexibility with respect to speed adjustments. Soft starters gradually ramp up the voltage applied to the motor. and synchronous belts. the operating rotational speeds of directdrive fans are limited to within a few percent of the synchronous motor speeds (most commonly 1. or with the use of multiple windings. which can be an advantage in high temperature applications. In direct drive systems. In conventional systems. ASDs can provide a highly efficient system for fans that operate over a range of conditions. Applications with low temperatures and clean system air are well-suited for direct drives because the motor mounts directly behind the fan and can be cooled by the airstream. There are several different types of belt drives. This space-saving configuration allows the motor to operate at higher-than-rated loads because of added cooling. Synchronous belts usually generate much more noise than other belts. The second type of motor can have two. synchronous belts are the most efficient. Gear drives are also used but are less common. cogged V-belts. The drive system often offers substantial opportunities to improve energy efficiency and to lower overall system operating costs. switching to synchronous belts must be done with caution. The controller is the switch mechanism that receives a signal from a low power circuit. the fan is attached to the motor shaft. and energizes or de-energizes the motor by connecting or disconnecting the motor windings to the power line voltage. soft-start capabilities. There are two principal types of drive systems: direct drive and belt drive. multiplespeed motors are more costly and less efficient than single-speed motors. such as an on/off switch. However. ASDs allow a range of shaft speeds and are quite practical for systems that have varying demand.Introduction to Fan Systems Another component of the prime mover is the motor controller. reducing the magnitude of the start-up current. Drive System. Belt drives offer a key advantage to fan systems by providing flexibility in fan speed selection. One way to add rotational speed flexibility to a direct-drive system is to use an adjustable speed drive (ASD). or in dirty or corrosive environments. 1. a major advantage associated with most VFDs is that they often have built-in. V-belts. which allow fan rotational speed adjustments by altering pulley diameters). Because ventilation and air-moving requirements often vary significantly. accessibility to the motor is somewhat restricted. They also transfer shock loads through the A Sourcebook for Industry 11 . the ability to adjust fan speed is useful. Because most fans are operated with induction motors. depending on application. If the initial estimates are incorrect or if the system requirements change.

“duct” will be the common reference for this sourcebook. refer to the fact sheet titled Fan System Economics on page 55. Because ducts are used for most air-moving applications. which interferes with engagement. the reduced cost of energy because of lower friction offsets some of these costs and should be included during the initial design process and during system modification efforts. An important advantage to V-belts is their protection of the drivetrain during sudden load changes. For more information see the fact sheet titled System Leaks on page 37. flexibility. duct losses are not a significant factor. including in-line drives. reliable operation. V-belts have a long history in industrial applications. In ventilation applications in which a fan pulls directly from a ventilated space on one side and discharges directly to an external space (like a wall-mounted propeller fan). because gears—like synchronous belts—do not allow slip. have less leakage. In general. however. In contrast. each of which may provide an attractive advantage in some applications. In applications that use standard belts. Another problem with synchronous belts is the limited availability of pulley sizes. gear systems offer some advantages to belt systems. gear systems tend to be designed for greater efficiency because of the costs. upgrades to V-belts should be considered. For more information. Round ducts have less surface area per unit cross sectional area than rectangular ducts and. gears tend to require less frequent inspection and maintenance than belts and are preferable in applications with severely limited access. In many cases. For most fan systems. ducts are made of sheet metal and used in low-pressure systems. and 90-degree drives. 12 Improving Fan System Performance . gear efficiencies range from 70 to 98 percent. paralleloffset drives. While synchronous belts tend to transfer these shock loads directly to the shafts and motors. In large horsepower (hp) applications (greater than 100 hp). Other considerations with ducts are their shape and leakage class. gearbox lubricant must be periodically inspected and changed. This is especially applicable to systems with rectangular ducts that have unsealed joints. Although larger ducts have higher initial costs in terms of material and installation. Friction between the airstream and the duct surface is usually a significant portion of the overall load on a fan. most of the same principles can be applied to pipes. air is directed through ducts or pipes. Ductwork or Piping. heat. However. In general. and robust operation. in most applications. pulleys are available in discrete sizes. affording some protection. ducts are used on one or both sides of a fan and have a critical impact on fan performance. Although they are not commonly used. These sudden load changes can be problematic for both motors and fans. the system designer can improve the performance of the ventilation system by specifying ducts that have low CLs. Duct leakage class. however. Because the pulleys have a mesh pattern. and the shape of the duct. synchronous belts are not as widely used as V-belts in fan applications. As a rule. which precludes an important advantage of belt drives: the ability to alter operating rotational speeds by adjusting sheave diameters. Gear systems tend to be much more expensive than belt drive alternatives. Although they are less efficient than synchronous belts. V-belts are widely used because of their efficiency. leakage can account for a significant portion of a fan’s capacity. Variables that determine CL include the type of joints used in construction. V-belts can slip. Because gears require lubrication. and noise problems that result from efficiency losses. shock loads are transferred directly across the drivetrain. and operating flexibility. Gear-system efficiency depends largely on speed ratio. typically identified by the factor CL (which has units of cfm/linear foot) is an indicator of duct integrity. the number of joints per unit length of duct. Depending on the length of the duct system. this surface area also influences the amount of heat transferred to the environment. Because of these factors. as a result. Gears also offer several motor/fan configurations. Also.Introduction to Fan Systems drivetrain without allowing slip. which means there is a lot of industry knowledge about them. larger ducts create lower airflow resistance than smaller ducts. Service conditions that experience sudden drivetrain accelerations cause accelerated wear or sudden failure. while pipes are sturdier and used in higher-pressure applications. Consequently. V-belts offer many advantages such as low cost. In hot or cool airstreams. machining them alters the pitch diameter.

In general. The prerotation or swirl of the air helps reduce the brake horsepower of the fan. this method is similar to that provided by inlet vanes. ASDs include several different types of mechanical and electrical equipment. Because they do not change air entry conditions. If the outlet damper is going to be used for open/ close service or for isolating the fan. Another method of airflow control is fan speed adjustment. the effect of pre-rotation may be lost or reduced. and a third-order relationship with power. proper use of dampers can improve energy efficiency over traditional system designs. If the inlet dampers on the inlet box are located too far away from the inlet of the fan. dampers can be used to lower system operating costs. is usually of opposed-blade design for better flow distribution on the discharge side of the fan. while decreasing the restriction reduces the pressure differential and allows more airflow. Multiple-speed motors have discrete speeds. This allows the fan to increase or decrease its load in response to system demand. annoying noise characteristics. Dampers decrease total fan output by increasing backpressure. and significant energy savings for fan systems with highly variable loads. fans with inlet vanes provide better power savings while operating the fan at part load conditions.” Although these motors tend to be somewhat less efficient than single speed motors. outlet dampers do not offer energy savings other than shifting the operating point along the fan horsepower curve. From a system perspective. Recalling the fan laws. in some cases. The outlet damper. dampers are effective at rerouting airflow and at controlling the amount of air delivered to a particular workspace. Inlet vanes provide better controllability with optimum power savings compared to other dampers. such as “high. as opposed to fans with inlet box dampers operating in a similar situation. especially in HVAC systems. which restricts the amount of air entering the fan. in many applications. The most common type A Sourcebook for Industry 13 . By slowing or speeding up a fan. its output can be adjusted to match system demand.” and “low. Because VAV systems are much more energy efficient than their precursors (constant-volume or dual-supply systems). inlet vanes at the inlet to the fan. which forces the operating point of a fan to shift to the left along its performance curve. In variable-air volume (VAV) systems. Unstable fan operation is the result of an aerodynamic phenomenon in which there is insufficient air moving across the fan blades. speed has a linear relationship with airflow. a second-order relationship with pressure. and accelerated wear on the fan drive system. dampers can decrease fan efficiency. and horsepower savings may be negligible.” “medium. Often. There are two primary speed control options: multiple-speed motors and ASDs. The inlet vanes and dampers must be designed for proper fan rotation and are to be installed in such a way that these inlet vanes and dampers open in the same direction as the fan rotation. operating flexibility. as the fan operating point moves to the left along its curve. which adjust the angle of attack of the entering airstream by creating a swirl in the airflow pattern. Flow control devices include inlet dampers on the box. However. Dampers can be used to throttle the air entering or leaving a fan and to control airflow in branches of a system or at points of delivery.Introduction to Fan Systems Airflow Control Devices. Inlet vanes adjust fan output in two principal ways: by creating a swirl in the airflow that affects the way in which the air hits the fan blades. Outlet dampers adjust resistance to airflow and move the operating point along the fan’s performance curve. or by throttling the air altogether. they offer simplicity. it operates less efficiently and. may perform in an unstable manner. Typically. and outlet dampers at the outlet of the fan. Variable pitch fans control fan output by adjusting the fan blade angle of attack with respect to the incoming airstream. In effect. a relatively compact space envelope. fan speed adjustment is the most efficient method of airflow control. a parallelblade discharge damper may be used. Inlet box dampers are usually parallel blade dampers. The airflow rate surges back and forth resulting in inefficient performance. Dampers control airflow by changing the amount of restriction in an airstream. Another airflow control method that is available for axial fan applications is the use of variable pitch blades. Increasing the restriction creates a larger pressure drop across the damper and dissipates some flow energy. when used for controlling airflow. Variable pitch fans provide a highly efficient means of matching fan output to system demand.

Heat exchangers are used to heat or cool an airstream to achieve a particular temperature or to remove moisture. Cyclone filters remove particulates by rapidly altering the direction of the airflow so that heavy particulates. and how the heat exchangers are constructed. unable to change direction quickly. Other equipment commonly found in air-moving systems includes devices used to condition the airstream to obtain certain properties. The effects of heating and cooling coils on fan system performance depend largely on where in the system the heat exchangers are located. see the fact sheet titled Controlling Fans with Variable Loads on page 43. inherently create pressure drops. the extent of the temperature change.). Filters are used to remove unwanted particles or gases. Air Conditioning and Process Equipment (Filters. 14 Improving Fan System Performance . VFDs allow motors to operate over a continuous range of speed. This flexibility provides accurate matching between fan output and the flow and pressure requirements of the system. In many systems. Filters. Although cyclone filters are less effective than mesh filters. they tend to require less maintenance and have more stable pressure-drop characteristics. Unlike multiple speed motors that operate at discrete speeds. which are often significant components of the overall system pressure drop. get trapped. including cyclone types or mesh types. VFDs control the frequency of the power supplied to a motor to establish its operating speed. Mesh-type filters create increasingly large pressure drops as they accumulate particles.Introduction to Fan Systems of ASD is a VFD. Heat Exchangers. Where there are large changes in airstream temperature. by changing air density. in some cases. but also increase pressure losses. poor performance is a direct result of inadequate attention to filter cleanliness. Heat exchangers that have closely spaced fins can accumulate particulates and moisture that not only impact heat transfer properties. fan performance can change as the air density changes. For more information. Conditioning equipment influences fan performance by providing flow resistance and. etc.

operators are so focused on the immediate demands of the equipment that they overlook the broader perspective of how the system parameters are affecting this equipment. The systems approach usually involves the following types of interrelated actions: ■ Establishing current conditions and operating Fact Sheets 1—Assessing Fan System Needs 2—Fan Types 3—Basic Maintenance 4—Common Fan System Problems 5—Indications of Oversized Fans 6—System Leaks 7—Configurations to Improve Fan System Efficiency 8—Controlling Fans with Variable Loads 9—Fan Drive Options 10–Multiple-Fan Arrangements 11–Fan System Economics parameters ■ Determining the present and estimating future ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ process production needs Gathering and analyzing operating data and developing load duty cycles Assessing alternative system designs and improvements Determining the most technically and economically sound options.Performance Improvement Opportunity Roadmap Section 2: Performance Improvement Opportunity Roadmap The cost-effective operation and maintenance of a fan system requires attention to the needs of both individual equipment and the entire system. A “systems approach” analyzes a system and how its components interact. The remainder of this section is a collection of 11 fact sheets that address both component and system issues. A Sourcebook for Industry 15 . Each fact sheet details a specific opportunity for improving fan system performance. essentially shifting the focus from individual components to total system performance. Often. taking into consideration all of the subsystems Implementing the best option Assessing energy consumption with respect to performance Continuing to monitor and optimize the system Continuing to operate and maintain the system for peak performance.

16 Improving Fan System Performance .

Centrifugal fans accelerate air radially. operating life. the right size must be determined. purchasing an oversized fan/motor assembly creates operating problems such as excess airflow noise and inefficient fan operation. contaminant level. The incremental energy costs of operating oversized fans can be significant. High Operating and Maintenance Costs. and high maintenance requirements. Fans have two mutually dependent outputs: airflow and pressure. Axial fans tend to be light and compact. A fan is chosen from a wide range of models based on its ability to meet the anticipated demands of a system. or wasteful airflow control practices. Poor airflow control refers to a wide range of causes and problems. Designers also tend to oversize fans to protect against being responsible for inadequate system performance.1–Assessing Fan System Needs Assessing Fan System Needs There are three principal opportunities in the life cycle of a system that can be used to improve fan system performance: ■ During initial system design and fan selection ■ During troubleshooting to solve a system problem ■ During a system capacity modification. pressure. Inadequate delivery may be the result of poor system balancing or leakage. temperature. Poor system design can lead to high operating and maintenance costs by promoting poor airflow conditions. A conservative design tendency is to source a fan/motor assembly that will be large enough to accommodate uncertainties in system design. reliable. Improper fan selection often means the fan is oversized for the application. If the system problems are significant. changing the direction of the airflow. and high airflow noise. An effective way of minimizing maintenance and operating costs is to keep a fan operating within a reasonable range of its best efficiency point (BEP). then a change to the fan. complicate the fan selection process. etc. can be the result of improper fan selection. Fans are usually selected on a “best-fit” basis rather than designed specifically for a particular application. density. including inadequate delivery to a system branch. Many factors are used to determine whether axial or centrifugal fans are more appropriate for certain applications. in turn. are sufficiently troublesome to justify a system assessment. duct configurations that create large system effect factors can cause significant efficiency and airflow losses. For example. Unusually high operating costs are often caused by inefficient fan operation that. However. this practice is often difficult in systems that have changing demands. Axial fans move air along the direction of the fan’s rotating axis. and maintenance. surging operation. or future capacity increases. high airflow noise. If a branch has a damper that is stuck open or a duct develops a large leak. These conditions determine which type of fan—centrifugal or axial—is required to meet service needs. They are sturdy. resulting in high energy costs. or the airflow control devices may be justifiable. The variability of these outputs and other factors. For more information on this problem. much like a propeller. A discussion of these factors is provided in the Fan Types fact sheet on page 19. ◆ Troubleshooting a System Problem Some fan system problems. Tendency to Oversize. see the fact sheet titled Indications of Oversized Fans on page 33. such as efficiency.). quiet. such as abnormally high operating and maintenance costs and ineffective airflow control. poor system design. A Sourcebook for Industry 17 . fouling effects. Poor Airflow Control. its drive system. However. and capable of operating over a wide range of conditions. airflow rate. Fans typically react to this loss of ◆ Initial Fan Selection Fan selection starts with a basic knowledge of system operating conditions: air properties (moisture content. then this branch may provide a low resistance flow path that robs airflow from other delivery points. After deciding which fan type is appropriate. and system layout.

an overloaded motor will typically shut itself down with thermal or current safety switches. In severe cases. Airflow rate can also be increased by installing a separate fan next to an existing one. the sheave diameters can be changed to increase fan speed. For example. Soft starters can extend fan motor life by keeping the motor temperature low. For more information. VFDs reduce stress on the electrical system. the effects of operating a motor at less than half its rated load should be considered. One option to accommodate the increased demand is to operate the fan at a higher speed. limiting the in-rush and starting current. Electrical System Wear. according to the fan laws. Consequently. added capacity requires the installation of a larger fan or an additional fan. Fan Replacement. increasing the airflow rate of the fan by increasing its speed requires significantly more power and may require a larger motor. Reducing fan speed can significantly reduce energy consumption. In belt driven applications. The structural integrity of the rotating elements. many centrifugal fan motors will overload if operated against little or no backpressure. Unfortunately. Multiple Fans. Selecting a new. Powerfinal = Powerinitial ( RPM RPMfinal initial ) 3 ◆ System Capacity Change For a system that is to be modified or upgraded. Replacing an existing fan with a different model is also an option. this speed reduction may cause motor efficiency and power factor to drop to low levels. the relationship between fan speed and power consumption is cubed. The relationship between fan speed and airflow rate is linear. and support structure needs to be evaluated for the higher speeds. In fan applications where sensitive loads can be affected by fan start-ups. the use of soft starters should be considered. In high run-time applications. By gradually bringing fan speed up to operating conditions. bearings. reducing fan rotational speed by 20 percent decreases fan power by 50 percent. Recall that motor efficiency and power factor fall significantly when the motor is operated below half its rating. refer to the fact sheet titled Multiple-Fan Arrangements on page 51. however. Soft starters are electrical devices that gradually ramp up the voltage to the fan motor. Lower Fan Rotational Speed. Fans in a parallel configuration may be shifting load between each other. 18 Improving Fan System Performance . The costs of inefficient operation and low power factor may justify motor replacement or the installation of a variable frequency drive. A single fan may be operating in a stall condition or hunting for the right operating point along an unstable part of its performance curve. Conversely. Several situations can cause surging. the system resistance is too high. Frequent start-ups of large loads can add significant stress to an electrical system. the purchase of a new fan with an energy-efficient motor may provide an attractive payback. A new fan may be more feasible if the existing one has degraded or requires extensive refurbishment. In these applications. Unless the existing fan is considerably oversized. the feasibility of operating it at lower rotational speeds should be considered. When adding a fan to an existing system. Higher Fan Rotational Speed. Multiple-fan configurations have many advantages. a system with excess fan capacity can often be accommodated by operating the fan at a slower speed. shafts. The in-rush current and the starting current for motors can create voltage sags in the electrical system and cause the motor to run hot for several minutes. larger fan requires consideration of the same factors that are involved in any initial fan selection. If the fan is oversized for normal operating conditions. including flexibility in meeting widely varying system demands and redundancy in case of equipment failure. the system can be configured so that both fans operate concurrently or either fan operates independently.1–Assessing Fan System Needs backpressure by generating high airflow rates. If not corrected. an assessment of the available fan capacity should be performed. Variable frequency drives (VFDs) are also commonly used to soft start fans. In these cases. The concurrent operation of two fans creates a combined performance curve that may be more appropriate for the system requirements than that of a single fan.

availability. and airfoil. generating airflow along the direction of the fan’s axis. which can be a significant advantage. efficiency. temperature range. including forwardcurved. Forward-Curved Blade Fan ◆ Centrifugal Fans Centrifugal fans are the most commonly used type of industrial fan. airflow. It is characterized by relatively low efficiency (between 55 and 65 percent). Technical considerations include pressure. Forwardcurved fans are commonly selected because of their small size relative to other fan types. Key impacts that determine which fan type is the most appropriate include technical and nontechnical attributes. radial-blade. drive configuration. especially during retrofit or upgrade opportunities. Their low operating speed also makes them quiet and wellsuited for residential heating. airflow rate. Axial and centrifugal fans have overlapping capabilities in terms of pressure. Understanding the principles of fan selection can be helpful in correcting poor system performance. and these fans are not used where airflow must be A Sourcebook for Industry 19 . backward-inclined. however. forward-curved fans do not require high-strength design attributes. variations in operating conditions.2–Fan Types Fan Types ◆ Basic Principle Fans can be classified primarily into two different types: axial and centrifugal. backward-curved. This fan type is typically used in applications that require low to medium air volumes at low pressure. and air conditioning (HVAC) applications. Forward-curved fans are usually limited to clean service applications. shown in Figure 2-1. and they can be constructed to accommodate harsh operating conditions. Also. Nontechnical reasons include cost. delivery time. A typical performance curve is shown in Figure 2-2. This fan type. Stress levels in fans are closely related to operating speed. and tolerance to corrosive or particulate-laden airstreams. If noise levels. and designer/operator familiarity with a fan model. fan output is difficult to adjust accurately (note how the fan curve is somewhat horizontal). energy costs. This fan type can operate at relatively low speeds. These fans are typically not constructed for high pressures or harsh service. or fan performance do not meet expectations. Centrifugal fans are capable of generating high pressures with high efficiencies. consequently. noise generation. radial-tip. maintenance requirements. which translates to low levels of noise. space constraints. Centrifugal fans generate airflow by accelerating the airstream radially and converting the kinetic energy into pressure. Forward-Curved Blades. The dip in the performance curve represents a stall region that can create operating problems at low airflow rates. has blades that curve in the direction of rotation. usually they are not interchangeable. Some centrifugal fan types are capable of serving widely varying operating conditions. and efficiency. then a different type of fan may need to be considered. ventilation. Centrifugal fans have several types of blade shapes. Rotation Figure 2-1. Axial fans act like propellers.

curved. A radial tip fan is shown in Figure 2-4. shown in Figure 2-7. shown in Figure 2-6. this type is commonly used in applications with low to medium airflow rates at high pressures. consequently. Within backward-inclined fans are three different blade shapes: flat. including dust. the blades can be inexpensively coated with protective compounds to improve erosion and corrosion resistance. which promotes low turbulence. Flat blade types. Backward-Inclined Fans. Curved-blade fans tend to be more efficient. Figure 2-2. Forward-Curved Centrifugal Fan Performance Curve closely controlled. Radial-Blade Centrifugal Fan 20 Improving Fan System Performance .2–Fan Types applications. Increasing Power Fan Curve Increasing Pressure rve Cu er w Po Increasing Airflow Radial-Tip. Radial-tip fans can have efficiencies up to 75 percent. and metal scrap. The simple design of these fans allows many small metalworking shops to custom build units for special Rotation Figure 2-4. These fans are commonly used in airborne-solids handling services because they have large running clearances. This fan type is characterized by blades that tilt away from the direction of rotation. In many cases. these fans are capable of handling high-particulate airstreams. The characteristic durability of this fan type is a key reason why it is considered an industry workhorse. wood chips. are the most efficient of all. Shown in Figure 2-3. and airfoil. Radial-Blade. consequently. Radial-tip fans are characterized by a low angle of attack between the blades and the incoming air. This fan type fills the gap between clean-air fans and the more rugged radial-blade fans. careful driver selection is required to avoid overloading the fan motor. Radial-Tip Centrifugal Fan Rotation Radial-tip fans have many of the characteristics of radial-blade fans and are well-suited for use with airstreams that have small particulates at moderate concentrations and airstreams with high moisture contents. The flat blade shape limits material build-up. capable of achieving efficiencies exceeding Figure 2-3. The large clearances between the blades also allow this fan to operate at low airflows without the vibration problems that usually accompany operating in stall. Forward-curved fans have a power curve that increases steadily with airflow toward free delivery. This fan type is characteristically rugged. Airfoil blades. A typical fan curve for radial fans is shown in Figure 2-5. are more robust.

such as dust streams. low cost. the fan is exposed to the relatively clean airstream on the upstream side of the process. Because airfoil blades rely on the lift created by each blade. Although the fans are typically designed to generate flow in one direction. ◆ Axial Fans The key advantages of axial airflow fans are compactness. This characteristic is useful when a space may require contaminated air to be exhausted or fresh air to be supplied. and light weight. A typical performance curve is shown in Figure 2-8. which can create performance problems. this fan type is highly susceptible to unstable operation because of stall. Backward-Inclined Centrifugal Airfoil Fan Increasing Airflow Figure 2-5. This promotes the accumulation of particulates on the fan blades. The high operating efficiencies available from this fan type can provide low system life-cycle costs. airflow is insufficient to fill the blades. In this stall region. Axial fans are also useful in ventilation applications that require the ability to generate reverse airflow. Thin airfoil blades are more efficient than the other blade types because of their lower rotating mass. because of this non-overloading motor characteristic. Axial fans have a severe stall region that makes them particularly unsuitable for systems with widely varying operating conditions. this fan type is often selected when system behavior at high airflow rates is uncertain. However. In these applications. and steam. A consequence of backward-incline blade orientation is a low angle of impingement with the airstream. A common application for backward-inclined fans is forced-draft service. inefficient performance. The consequences of unstable operation include annoying noise patterns. Backward-Inclined Fan A Sourcebook for Industry 21 . Rotation Figure 2-6. which can severely interfere with fan performance. The motor brake horsepower increases with airflow for most of the performance curve but drops off at high airflow rates. Radial-Blade Fan Curve 85 percent. Axial fans are frequently used in exhaust applications where airborne particulate size is small.2–Fan Types Fan Curve Rotation Increasing Pressure Curve Power Increasing Power Figure 2-7. they can operate in the reverse direction. causing the fan to operate unstably. smoke. Loss of blade wall thickness can lead to cavity formation in the blades. this thinwalled characteristic makes this fan type highly susceptible to erosion problems.

and are often used in rooftop ventilation applications. Propeller fans tend to be comparatively noisy. reflecting their inefficient operation. the power requirements of propeller fans decrease with increases in airflow.2–Fan Types Fan Curve Fan Curve Increasing Pressure Increasing Pressure Increasing Power Power Curve Power Curve Increasing Airflow Increasing Airflow Figure 2-10. The simplest version of an axial fan is the propeller type. near-free delivery. Tubeaxial Fans. Propeller Fans. A more complex version of a propeller fan is the tubeaxial fan. Propeller fans tend to have relatively low efficiencies. These devices alter the airflow patterns around the fan blades. but they are inexpensive because of their simple construction. Propeller Fan Curve Figure 2-8. they are usually not combined with extensive ductwork. Propeller Fan Figure 2-11. This problem of stall can be solved in many axial fans by selecting a fan with an anti-stall device. allowing stable fan operation over the entire range of airflow and pressure. the noise signature is dominated by higher frequencies. is essentially a propeller fan placed inside a cylinder. Propeller fans generate high airflow rates at low pressures. This characteristic makes them noisier than comparable centrifugal fans. As shown in Figure 2-10. Axial fans must rotate faster than comparable centrifugal fans to achieve the same airflow capacity. shown in Figure 2-11. shown in Figure 2-9. They achieve maximum efficiency. This type. however. Backward-Inclined Fan Curve and accelerated drivetrain wear. Tubeaxial Fan 22 Improving Fan System Performance . By improving the airflow Airflow Figure 2-9. Because propeller fans do not generate much pressure. which are easier to attenuate.

to high-pressure applications. Depending on the circumstances. most tubeaxial fans use belt drives to achieve fan speeds below 1. Tubeaxial fans are used in medium-pressure.2–Fan Types characteristics. these applications may require the supply of fresh air or the removal of contaminated air. Vaneaxial Fan Curve Increasing Power Tubeaxial fans can be either connected directly to a motor or driven through a belt configuration. Much like propeller fans. 4-. highairflow rate applications and are well-suited for ducted HVAC installations. a vaneaxial fan is essentially a tubeaxial fan with Increasing Airflow Figure 2-14. vaneaxial fans tend to have a low rotating mass. A Sourcebook for Industry 23 .100 revolutions per minute. with a large rotational component. which is useful in many ventilation applications. Tubeaxial Fan Curve Power Curve Vaneaxial Fans. which allows them to achieve operating speed relatively quickly. converting the airstream’s kinetic energy to pressure. This airflow characteristic is accompanied by moderate airflow noise. The performance curve for tubeaxial fans is shown in Figure 2-12. Vaneaxial fans are typically used in medium. Airflow Figure 2-13. Tubeaxial fans are frequently used in exhaust applications because they create sufficient pressure to overcome duct losses and are relatively space efficient. and 6-pole motors. As shown in Figure 2-13. A further refinement of the axial fan is the vaneaxial fan. tubeaxial fans have a pronounced instability region that should be avoided. Also. tubeaxial fans achieve higher pressures and better operating efficiencies than propeller fans. Vaneaxial Fan outlet vanes that improve the airflow pattern. vaneaxial fans can generate flow in reverse direction. such as induced draft service for a boiler exhaust. Fan Curve Increasing Pressure Power Curve Increasing Power Fan Curve Increasing Airflow Increasing Pressure Figure 2-12. These vanes create an airflow profile that is comparatively uniform. because of their low rotating mass. Also. they can quickly accelerate to rated speed. Like tubeaxial fans. like other axial fans. This characteristic is useful in emergency ventilation applications where quick air removal or supply is required. Because of the high operating speeds of 2-. The airflow profile downstream of the fan is uneven. which is also helpful in ventilation applications.

These fans are highly efficient. which can be adjusted to change the angle of attack to the incoming airstream. providing an effective and efficient method of airflow control. 24 Improving Fan System Performance . As shown in Figure 2-14. vaneaxial fans have performance curves that have unstable regions to the left of the peak pressure. they can achieve efficiencies up to 85 percent. Vaneaxial fans are frequently connected directly to a motor shaft.2–Fan Types Vaneaxial fans are often equipped with variablepitch blades. Variablepitch blades can change the load on the fan. When equipped with airfoil blades and built with small clearances.

The maintenance interval should be based on manufacturer recommendations and experience with fans in similar applications. Even new. poor belt condition can add significantly to the ambient noise level. Determine bearing condition by listening for noises that indicate excessive wear.270 annually for a continuously operating system. As belts wear. ❏ Leaks. these losses increase. and the availability of back-up equipment. basic system maintenance should be performed at reasonable intervals. ◆ Maintenance Schedules To minimize the amount of unscheduled downtime. Basic Maintenance Checklist ❏ Belts. Fans and system components that are susceptible to contaminant build-up should be cleaned regularly. Belt Inspection. the length of which should be determined by either hours of operation or calendar periods. translating to $3. Also check sheave condition. For example. Generally. Because each system places particular demands on its air-moving equipment. tightness. Check for ductwork leakage that can lead to energy losses and poor system performance. Because noise is one of the ways in which the energy loss of belts is manifested. Belt inspection is particularly important to the operation of large fans because of the size of the power losses. Causes of this downtime vary according to the demands of the application. maintenance requirements vary widely. Replace bearings. reducing their power transmission efficiency. ❏ Motor Condition.3–Basic Maintenance Basic Maintenance ◆ Maintenance Items Common maintenance tasks on fan systems include: ■ Periodic inspection of all system components ■ Bearing lubrication and replacement ■ Belt tightening and replacement ■ Motor repair or replacement ■ Fan cleaning. if necessary. in a 200-horsepower (hp) fan. Lubricate bearings in accordance with fan manufacturer instructions. and alignment. ❏ System Cleaning. Factors that should weigh into this schedule include the cost of downtime. As belt conditions degrade. or by using a predictive maintenance technique. In systems that do not have abnormally severe operating demands. measuring bearing operating temperature. these tests measure insulation resistance at a certain voltage or measure the rate at which an applied voltage decays across the insulation. Check the integrity of motor winding insulation. Check belt condition.1 1 Using $0. they tend to lose tension. such as vibration analysis or oil analysis. In belt-driven fans. ❏ Bearings. properly adjusted belts suffer losses of 5 to10 percent. vibration analysis can indicate certain conditions within the motor windings. The most costly consequence of improper maintenance is unscheduled downtime. the cost and the risk of catastrophic failure. Also. a typical maintenance schedule would include the items on the checklist. which can lead to early detection of developing problems. A Sourcebook for Industry 25 . a 5 percent decrease in power transmission efficiency results in a 10-hp loss.05/kilowatt-hour. belts are usually the most maintenance-intensive part of the fan assembly.

Worn bearings can create unsatisfactory noise levels and risk seizure. Even properly maintained motors have a finite life. are highly susceptible to build-up of particulates or moisture. anti-friction bearings (ball. check the grease quality and. However. whenever one belt degrades to the point of requiring replacement. As belts wear and age. motor type. Bearings should be monitored frequently. and forward-curved blade type fans are commonly used because of their resistance to contaminant build-up. radial-blade. for high-speed fans in severe environments. ■ For grease-lubricated bearings. they exhibit different properties. These build-ups disturb the airflow over the blades. lubrication intervals can be necessary weekly or more often. Be careful not to over-grease bearings as this interferes with ball or roller motion and may cause overheating. operating hours. including motor size. and tears or cracks in ductwork and flexible joints. consequently. Leakage. ■ Ensure the bearings are adequately protected from contamination. In multiple-belt arrangements. Because fans are often used in ventilation applications to remove airborne contaminants. such as backward-inclined airfoil. In systems with inaccessible ductwork. Leaks tend to develop in flexible connections and in areas of a system that experience high vibration levels. In axial fans. this problem can be particularly acute. Exposing all the belts to roughly the same operating time minimizes the risk of uneven loading. care should be taken to prevent overtightening the belts. for some other reason. replace the oil. consequently. System leaks degrade system performance and increase operating costs. performance decline is largely because of contaminant build-up on fan blades and other system surfaces. a different type of fan is used in a high-particulate or high-moisture service. resulting in decreased fan efficiency and higher operating costs. System pressure checks are discussed in the fact sheet titled System Leaks on page 37. radial-tip. increased awareness of the costs associated with poorly adjusted belts can improve the attention devoted to this maintenance effort. For example. In many fans. and shorter bearing replacement intervals. check the oil quality and. if necessary. In high-particulate or moisture-content applications. and cost of electricity. Leakage decreases the amount of air delivered to the point of service. Certain fan types. For example. roller-type) are predominantly used because of the need for a robust thrust bearing to handle the axial thrust load. resulting in imbalance problems that can result in performance problems and drivetrain wear. Fan Cleaning. in a motor application where the 26 Improving Fan System Performance . the use of temporary pressurization equipment can determine if the integrity of the system is adequate. Bearing Lubrication. ■ For oil-lubricated bearings. Establishing proper belt tightness is essential to minimizing the energy losses associated with belt drives. Motor Replacement. Sources of leaks can be identified visually by inspecting for poorly fitting joints. several factors must be considered. When faced with the decision to repair or replace a motor.3–Basic Maintenance Although belt inspection and tightening is usually a routine task for any mechanic. repack the bearings. Fans that operate in particulate-laden or high-moisture airstreams should be cleaned regularly. one of the first steps in troubleshooting a system that has experienced declining performance is to check the integrity of the ductwork. then fan inspection and cleaning should be performed more frequently than normal. all the belts should be replaced at the same time. winding insulation inevitably breaks down. Bearing lubrication should be performed in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. If. Contaminant buildup is often not uniform. accelerated wear. Motors in which the winding temperatures exceed rated values for long periods tend to suffer accelerated insulation breakdown. This leads to high radial bearing loads. if necessary. replacing only one or two belts in a multiple-belt arrangement creates a risk of overloading one or more of the belts. Over time.

Fortunately. For more information on motor repair. each facility must establish its own repair/replace strategy. because poor quality motor rewinds can compromise motor efficiency. repairs can be effectively scheduled. high-efficiency motors should be considered. in harsh operating environments. Vibration monitors offer relatively inexpensive insurance for avoiding costly failures and can improve the effectiveness with which fan maintenance is planned. the calculated breakeven point between repair and replacement is 50 hp. High-efficiency motors are generally 3 to 8 percent more efficient than standard motors. By “listening” to the vibrations of a motor or similar piece of machinery. either the impeller should be replaced or an entirely new fan should be installed. fan maintenance is reactive rather than proactive. Improving Motor and Drive System Performance: A Sourcebook for bestpractices. motors that have been previously rewound can suffer additional efficiency losses during subsequent rewinds. erosion and corrosion can reduce fan-blade thickness.oit. Under most conditions.05/kilowatt-hour. Other resources related to motor repair can be found on the BestPractices Web site at www. replacement motors meeting Energy Policy Act (EPAct) efficiency requirements should be selected. 2 HorsePower Bulletin. For example. ◆ Predictive Maintenance In many applications. Advanced Energy (in cooperation with the U. and the rebuild cost is 60 percent of the price of a new motor. set minimum efficiency standards for most general-purpose motors from 1 to 200 hp. Fan cleaning is performed to correct an indication of poor fan performance or vibration because of dust build-up. because of its higher operating speed. This can help avoid the problem of installing a motor that.2 Under these circumstances.oit. Fan Replacement. in applications requiring less than 50 hp. Department of Energy). which went into effect in October 1997.S. causes the fan to generate more airflow and consume more energy than the previous motor/fan combination. The MotorMaster+ software program can be a valuable tool in selecting energy-efficient motors.doe. EPAct. However. motor winding problem. Because MotorMaster+ contains motor rotational speed data. A Sourcebook for Industry 27 .) For motor replacements. by which time they may have resulted in significantly higher operating costs.000 hours each year at 75 percent rated load. the instrumentation can detect the early symptoms of a bearing problem. There are several resources that provide guidance in developing such a strategy. reducing the risk of catastrophic failure. bearing lubrication is performed in response to audible bearing noises. For motor rewinds. In high-use applications. Vibration analysis equipment is essentially a refined extension of the human ear. (EASA is a trade association of motor repair companies. Of course. many fan system problems remain unaddressed until they become a nuisance. while larger motors should be rebuilt. The program allows users to compare motors and estimate energy costs and savings along with lifecycle costs. contact the Industrial Technologies Information Clearinghouse at (800) 862-2086 or the Electrical Apparatus Service Association (EASA) at (314) 993-1269.doe. the motor operates 4. discusses this issue in greater detail. fan blades should last the life of the impeller. weakening the blades and creating an impeller imbalance.3–Basic Maintenance cost of electricity is $ this efficiency advantage often provides an attractive payback period. it is useful in finding replacement motors that operate at the same speed as the existing motor. Although motor rewinds are often cost-effective. A companion sourcebook. or dynamic imbalance. Unfortunately. recent improvements in instrumentation and signal analysis software have increased the availability of vibration monitoring and testing equipment. By identifying problems before they become worse. MotorMaster+ is available through the Industrial Technologies Information Clearinghouse and can be downloaded from the BestPractices Web site at www. ensure that the repair facility has a proper quality assurance program. These devices can be permanently installed with a fan and incorporated into an alarm or safety shutdown system. In these cases.

◆ Records A written log or record documenting observations and inspection results is a useful supplement to a maintenance schedule. or operator observations regarding the conditions under which the problem becomes noticeable improves the ability to effectively schedule a repair. Often a machinery problem will develop over time.3–Basic Maintenance Portable vibration instruments can also be used as part of a facility’s preventive maintenance system. Vibration signatures taken at different points in a fan’s operating life can be evaluated to determine whether a problem is developing and. how fast. The MotorMaster+ software contains an inventory module that allows the user to record maintenance and inspection results. 28 Improving Fan System Performance . adjustments. if so. A history of the repairs. Vibrations measured during operation can be compared against a baseline set of data. usually taken when the machinery was first commissioned.

in severe cases. it can translate directly into lower fan output. In motor applications below 50 horsepower. These bearings tend to be comparatively expensive. Common bearing problems include noise. the bearings in a fan/motor assembly wear and. poor installation. Bearings. or poor maintenance. A systems approach is important to help understand the total costs and performance impacts of these problems. the relative wear between the driven and the driving sheave can affect fan performance. making proper fan operation and effective maintenance important. and. radial bearings tend to be less expensive than thrust bearings in terms of material cost and installation requirements. In multiple-belt drive assemblies. In some cases. uneven loading of the belts causes uneven wear. Because operating conditions vary widely. Because of the nature of the airflow. and rupture. In contrast. can create operating problems. Although some degree of wear is unavoidable. Belt Drives. Motors in which the winding temperatures exceed rated values for long periods tend to suffer accelerated insulation breakdown. oil analysis methods can help evaluate bearing condition. To prevent such problems from causing unplanned downtime. Motors. For more information. belts will develop one or more smooth spots that lead to vibrations during fan operation. As with most rotating machinery. belt tension that is too high increases the wear rate. Common problems include belt wear. operating the system at efficient levels reduces the risk of sudden equipment failure and can lower the cost and frequency of maintenance. and can create an increased risk of unexpected downtime. increases load on the bearings. winding insulation inevitably breaks down. Poor belt drive maintenance also promotes costly system operation. In oil-lubricated bearings. the life and reliability of the whole drive unit. There are two primary bearing types in fan/motor combinations: radial and thrust. fans experience wear and require periodic maintenance and repairs. the ◆ Fan/Motor Assembly Problems Problems with the fan/motor assemblies can result from improper component selection. noise. The presence of abrasive particles tends to accelerate belt wear. and motors eventually require replacement or rewinding.4–Common Fan System Problems Common Fan System Problems ◆ Basic Principle Like most other rotating machinery. As belt slippage increases. Because sheave diameter has a significant effect on fan speed. Belt drives are frequently the most maintenance-intensive component of a fan/motor assembly. Belt wear can lead to efficiency and performance problems. Contaminant build-up on the belts often results in increased slippage and noisy operation. which can affect A Sourcebook for Industry 29 . Even properly maintained motors have a finite life. Vibration analysis tools can improve confidence in determining bearing condition and planning bearing work. axial fans typically require heavier thrust bearings. Belts are not the only item in a belt drive assembly that develop problems. seizure. Fan blade surfaces may erode from abrasive particles in the airstream. bearings should be a principal maintenance item. over time. The sheaves themselves are subject to wear and should be periodically inspected. excessive clearance. Dynamic surfaces in bearings and belt drives degrade over time. Fan system problems can be grouped into two principal categories: problems that are related to the fan/motor assembly and problems associated with the system. the history of other fans in similar applications should be used to schedule bearing replacement. see the fact sheet titled Basic Maintenance on page 25. In general. Insufficient belt tension can also cause high noise levels through belt slap or slippage. Over time.

(EASA is a trade association of motor repair companies. Some fan types are susceptible to contaminant build-up. fans often generate higher-than-necessary airflows and incur 30 Improving Fan System Performance . Certain blade types are particularly susceptible to erosion because of the angle of attack with the airstream. In high run-time applications. energy-efficient motors should be considered. because poor-quality motor rewinds can compromise motor efficiency. Improper installation practices include on-site modifications to the duct system that result in high SEFs. While these filters can help maintain efficient fan performance. and in filters results in decreased system efficiency and inadequate airflow. and incorrect fan rotation. rewinding an existing motor is often more economically feasible. In many cases. It is available through the Information Clearinghouse and can be downloaded from the Web site at improper fan rotational speed selection. duct surfaces. In airstreams that have corrosive gases or abrasive particles. An important component in this trend is the use of filters upstream of the fans to lessen material build-up. ◆ System Problems Poor system performance can be caused by several factors. and noisy system operation. particulate build-up can be a problem. The MotorMaster+ software program can be a valuable tool in selecting energy-efficient motors. As fan blades degrade. contact the Industrial Technologies Information Clearinghouse at (800) 862-2086. system leakage. The tendency to suffer build-up is related to the velocity and angle of attack of the airflow with respect to the blades. motors that have been previously rewound can suffer additional efficiency losses during subsequent rewinds.) For motor replacements. this efficiency advantage often provides an attractive payback period. In applications where higher-than-expected blade degradation has occurred. including improper system design and component selection. Poor component selection includes oversizing fans or using ineffective or wasteful flow control devices. For more information on motor repair. Fan types that have blade shapes that discourage material accumulation (for example. this build-up can significantly affect fan performance. in larger applications. or the Electrical Apparatus Service Association (EASA) at (314) 993-1269. fan blade degradation can present a threat to reliable operation. EPAct-efficient motors can be 3 to 8 percent more efficient than standard motors. Inadequate maintenance often means a lack of bearing lubrication and fan cleaning. The program allows users to compare motors and estimate energy costs and savings along with life cycle costs. especially with backward-inclined blades. however.oit. Because systems are frequently not re-adjusted during periods of low demand. Contaminant accumulation on fan blades. ensure that the repair facility has a proper quality assurance program. High Operating Costs. radial and radial-tip types) are usually selected for applications in which the airstreams have high particulate or moisture content. Improper system design usually means the system is configured so that it has high system effect factors (SEFs) that result in high operating costs. For motor rewinds. such as backwardinclined fans. the airflow over the surfaces becomes disrupted and the fan imparts energy less efficiently to the airstream. fan cleaning should be a part of the routine maintenance program. Many fan systems are designed to support the highest expected operating loads. over time. additional attention to filter cleaning and replacement is required to avoid the pressure drops and energy losses that result from clogged filters. Although motor rewinds are typically a cost-effective alternative. highly efficient fan types.4–Common Fan System Problems common repair choice is simply to replace a motor with a new one. Consequently. and inadequate maintenance. Many fan manufacturers have developed materials and coatings that solve this problem. EPAct should provide industrial end users with increased selection and availability of energy efficient motors. Fan Degradation. incorrect installation practices. In many heating and cooling system applications. even in relatively clean air applications. A section of the national Energy Policy Act (EPAct) setting minimum efficiency standards for most common types of industrial motors went into effect in October 1997.doe. are increasingly used to lower system energy consumption. Contaminant Build-Up. However. different fan types or fan materials should be considered.

adjustable-speed drives are attractive because of the avoided fouling problems. Unstable operation can result from operating certain types of fans at low airflow rates and from the interaction of multiple fans operating in parallel. limiting blade-angle adjustability. In heat exchangers. Airflow Noise. it results in higher operating costs and increased airflow noise. it can defeat the energy savings and performance benefits that were intended when the fan system was specified. leakage can have a significant impact on operating cost and system performance. This causes a system component to exhibit a higher-than-expected pressure drop. In many systems. either a greater maintenance effort should be made to keep the linkage action free. Where contaminant build-up on mechanical linkages is a problem. In single fan configurations. The accumulation of contaminants in parts of a system can disrupt airflow profiles and create high-pressure drops. Improper fan selection or operating a fan at higher speeds than necessary can create avoidable noise levels that impair worker comfort and productivity. designers have improperly calculated the system effect or have attempted to overpower it with additional fan capacity. This is particularly true for systems with oversized fans. An important part of evaluating whether operating costs can be significantly reduced is to measure the amount of variability in delivery requirements and determine operating configurations that meet—but do not exceed—these requirements. minimizing the amount of airflow and pressure loss can provide key savings. however. an aerodynamic phenomenon known as “stall” occurs at low airflow rates. a key consequence of the system effect is inadequate airflow. Although this option is sometimes unavoidable. By configuring the system to improve airflow and by using flow straighteners where appropriate. A common solution is to increase fan speed. thus allowing lower energy consumption during periods of low demand. contaminant build-up on the linkage components can impair proper operation. The severity of this stall varies according to fan type. As joints loosen.4–Common Fan System Problems higher-than-necessary operating costs. or an alternative airflow control solution should be considered. Finned heat exchangers and filters are particularly susceptible to contaminant accumulation that can severely impair airflow. increases in joint leakage can have a direct impact on airflow delivery and can dramatically increase operating costs. For more information. See the fact sheet titled Configurations to Improve Fan System Efficiency on page 39. fouling interferes with heat transfer. In many dirty air fan applications. fouling can have a compounding impact on energy use. the performance problems caused by the system effect can be minimized. In many systems. Frequently. airflow noise is a large component of ambient noise levels. Fouling. forward-curved centrifugal fans. However. because these devices are typically controlled with a mechanical linkage. refer to the fact sheet titled System Leaks on page 37. Similarly. Often. In these systems. but is most severe in axial fans. Awareness of the costs of inefficient system operation can lead to efforts that reduce these costs and increase system reliability. Consequently. Some systems are constructed with little attention to joint integrity. In systems with extensive ductwork. which increases airflow. Poor system configuration can lead to insufficient delivery. and backward-inclined centrifugal fans. Inlet-guide vanes are used to change the load on a fan according to system airflow requirements. Some system leakage is unavoidable. a more effective solution to inadequate airflow can be obtained by addressing the fundamental cause of the problem. Over time. Unstable Operation. Insufficient Delivery. Consequently. Leakage. Higher-than-expected system pressure and high vibration levels cause joint integrity to suffer. the linkages controlling the position of variable-pitch blades can become fouled with contaminant build-up. the amount of leakage increases. There are many alternatives to compensate for this problem. system leakage tends to increase. A Sourcebook for Industry 31 . Another aspect of fouling that can affect fan performance is interference with inlet-guide vane operation or blade-angle adjustment in variablepitch fans. and it can cause a fan to operate much less efficiently. which can compound an airflow problem by requiring more airflow to compensate for the reduction in heat exchanger effectiveness. The system effect stems from poor airflow conditions.

When this separation starts on one blade. The shape and distance between the fan blades significantly affect how the stall affects fan performance. unless a means of keeping airflow rates above the stall point. For more information. As a result. resulting in a cascading effect. In general. fans alternately shifting loads between each other can cause instability.4–Common Fan System Problems The hunting phenomenon associated with fan stall occurs as the fan searches for a stable operating point. This effect occurs at low-flow rates that are typically to the left of the peak pressure on the combined fan curve. show little change in output. This fact is largely because of the way radial-blade fans operate—they do not rely on air slipping across the blade surfaces and tend to have relatively large distances between the blades. known as an anti-stall device. Even in systems in which operating conditions are not expected to create stall problems. As the air “separates” from the fan blade. this fan design can be considered. In applications where stall is a risk. such as a bleed line or a recirculation path. 32 Improving Fan System Performance . Because axial fans rely on the lift generated by blade surfaces. In multiple-fan configurations. fan degradation or a significant increase in system pressure (filter clogging or system fouling) can cause a fan to develop an instability problem. refer to the fact sheet titled Multiple-Fan Arrangements on page 51. the force on the blade changes. Some centrifugal fans. A proprietary design feature. automatically modifies the flow patterns around the fan blades to provide stable operation at all combinations of flow and pressure. is available. Stall occurs when there is insufficient air moving across the fan blades. causing the airflow to change as well. Avoiding this problem requires de-energizing one of the fans or decreasing the system resistance to allow greater airflow. stall can create a significant performance problem. axial fans are not recommended for use in systems with widely varying flow requirements. Stall happens largely because of air separation from the fan blades. stall problems are not as common in radial-blade fan as they are in other fans. such as those with radial blades. it often initiates an effect that carries over to the next blade. Axial fans are particularly vulnerable to stall. A solution to this problem is commercially available.

and vibrating fan and duct supports. However. which reduces worker productivity. Large fans typically cost more than small ones. High Energy Costs. Unfortunately. Workers acclimate to ambient acoustic levels and do not express discomfort. Consequently. and installation of fans that exceed system requirements. 62021 EPA 430-B-97-024D. by generating more airflow than necessary. Oversized fans tend to operate with one or more of the indications of poor performance including noisy. Airborne vibrations are often perceptible as noise. and duct supports. Oversized fans also tend to create high system pressures. Fans that operate inefficiently tend to create high airborne and structure-borne vibration levels. inefficient. High vibration levels create fatigue loads that eventually crack welds and loosen fittings. high noise levels promote fatigue. Oversized fans increase system operating costs both in terms of energy and maintenance requirements. Alternately. oversized fans are more likely to operate in their stall regions. Frequent Maintenance. the integrity of the system suffers and leaks occur. Anticipated system capacity expansions and potential fouling effects add to the tendency to specify fans that are one size greater than those that meet the system requirements. which can result in surging flow and vibrations that damage the fans and degrade fan systems.S. High airflow noise often results from the excess flow energy imparted to the airstream.5–Indications of Oversized Fans Indications of Oversized Fans ◆ Tendency to Oversize Fans Conservative engineering practices often result in the specification. The fan may operate inefficiently because the system curve intersects the fan curve at a point that is not near the fan’s best efficiency point (BEP). almost 60 percent of the fans were oversized. purchase. system ducts that seem to “breathe” in response to the pressure variations. cyclic bearing loads tend to increase the stress on other drivetrain components such as belts and motors. while structureborne vibrations are felt by the system equipment. Engineers often include a margin of safety in sizing fans to compensate for uncertainties in the design process. A Sourcebook for Industry 33 . EPA Office of Air and Radiation. or unstable fan operation. High levels of structure-borne vibrations can create problems in welds and mechanical joints over time. A few of these indications can be discerned by quick checks of system airflow control device settings. and large fans also require larger and more costly motors. ductwork. which increase stress on the ductwork and promote leakage. U. they may experience cyclic bearing and drivetrain stresses. Higher energy costs can be attributed to two basic causes.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study revealed that within building fan systems. In severe cases. A recent U. Also. further degrading system efficiency. which is typically on the left side of the fan performance curve. July 1997. When oversized fans operate away from their BEP. In addition. specifying oversized fans results in higher-than-necessary initial system costs. it uses more energy and increases stress on the system. This is particularly applicable when a fan operates in its stall region. Poor Performance. many of the costs and operating problems that result from oversized fans are overlooked during the equipment specification process. 1 ENERGY STAR® Buildings Upgrade Manual. Oversized fans often create high airflow noise. The problems that accompany the selection of oversized fans are outlined below. ◆ Typical Indications of Oversized Fans There are several indications of oversized fans. High Capital Costs. Indications of stall include pulsing airflow noise. even if an oversized fan operates near its BEP. and almost 10 percent of the fans were oversized by 60 percent1. High Noise/Vibration Levels.

To account for the fact that a fan does not operate at a single condition all the time. because fan performance is highly sensitive to operating speed.000 10. the data’s usefulness is limited by how representative it is of the average system operating conditions. Using a clamp-type ammeter.000 12. the connection box on the motor is more accessible. the current on each of the three power cables running to the motor (most industrial motors are three-phase) can be measured. If possible.000 Static Pressure (in wg) Static Pressure (in. Use of Fan Curves. unless operators maintain comprehensive records or are highly familiar with fan operating data. inlet vanes and dampers remain closed so often that they can be found rusted or locked in a restrictive position. However.000 18. Also.000 8. As with any measured data. for better accuracy. This indicates that the system continually operates against an unnecessary load and that fan operation is unnecessarily costly. the average load factor may be difficult to determine.8 and 1. the location of the operating point on the fan curve can provide an indication of how appropriately the fan is sized.000 16.075 pounds per cubic foot. fan rotational speed should be measured and the affinity law 26 24 22 20 18 16 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 2. Use of Fan Curve to Determine Power Consumption 34 Improving Fan System Performance BHP bhp Power Curve 40 .wg) Fan Curve 60 50 30 20 10 6. compare the pressure required by the end uses to the pressure generated by the fan. hot readings (readings taken while the system is in operation) are relatively simple to take. Such readings should only be taken by properly trained personnel. If the fan is oversized. corrected by the power factor. which is the density of air at standard conditions. Most power meters measure real-time power. line voltage varies over time because of changes in plant power consumption. Most fan performance curves assume air density of 0. a power meter can be used instead of separately reading volts and amps. In systems with widely varying operating conditions. it will generate more total pressure for the same airflow than a correctly sized fan. an estimate of its average load factor—the percentage of the fan’s full capacity at which it operates—must be made. because of the reactive power that they draw. Sometimes the motor controller is a convenient point to take these readings. The power factor data for most motors can be obtained from the manufacturers. the static pressure measurement must be corrected for any difference between the density of the airstream and the density used to define the performance curve. In some facilities. Kilowatt use is the product of amps and line volts. Reactive power is essentially the power stored in the magnetic field of the motor. Direct measurement of motor power is not always practical.5–Indications of Oversized Fans Systems in which airflow demand varies widely inevitably require control devices to restrict airflow for certain periods. Alternately. An accurate way to determine motor power consumption requires directly measuring amps and volts. obviating the need to estimate power factor. Also.000 Flow Rate (CFM) Flow Rate (cfm) Figure 2-15. simply taking data once will probably not provide a true indication of system energy consumption. Direct Measurement. Line voltage is usually measured at the motor controller and should be measured around the same time as the current reading. When conditions permit. Motors usually have power factors between 0.000 14. For example. Power factor is the ratio of real work performed to the product of volts and amps. Another method of determining fan power consumption is to measure the static pressure generated by the fan and to determine the corresponding brake horsepower as shown in Figure 2-15.000 4. Unfortunately. Fan Load Factor. To determine electrical power. “Hot” measurement of a motor current exposes workers to risk and may not be feasible in some industrial environments because of high voltage or exposure of the power connections to moisture or contaminants. while at other sites. in some systems. the brake horsepower value must be divided by motor efficiency. Other indications of oversized fans require more detailed measurements.

At relatively low loads. the VFD adjusts fan speed to meet this demand. VFDs tend to operate at unity power factors. VFDs use electronic controls to regulate motor speed which. Multiple-speed motors are usually selected during the initial design process rather than retrofitted into an existing system. The energy and maintenance cost savings provide a return that often justifies the VFD investment. if necessary. many ◆ Corrective Measures In systems served by oversized fans. belt-driven fan may be suitable for decreasing fan speed. Another consideration is the effect on the motor’s power factor. Fans with severe instability regions should not be operated at rotational speeds that expose the fan to inefficient operating conditions. Fans that operate over a wide range of their performance curves are often attractive candidates for ASDs. Variable Frequency Drives. Other alternatives include: ■ Decreasing fan speed using different motor and fan sheave sizes (may require downsizing the motor) ■ Installing an adjustable speed drive (ASD) or multiple-speed motor ■ Using an axial fan with controllable pitch blades. The costs of reducing the motor’s power factor should be included in the economic analysis and may provide an incentive to switch to a smaller motor. Fan power consumption is highly sensitive to fan speed. If fan power is to be reduced significantly. The choice among these measures depends on the system and on the particular indicator that points to the oversized fan problem. this option may be too costly. efficiency begins to decline. particularly variable frequency drives (VFDs) are commonly used as retrofit solutions because of their ability to work with existing motors. however.5–Indications of Oversized Fans relationships should be used to find the equivalent operating point on the performance curve. Additionally. Low power factors are detrimental to a motor and its power supply. below 40 percent of the motor load. this method is the least accurate and not usable on fans with relatively flat pressure curves. A consideration in the fan-speed adjustment is the effect on the motor. Obviously. Most motors operate at relatively consistent efficiencies above 50 percent of full load capacity. Another method of decreasing fan rotational speed is to use a motor that has multiple speeds and to select a lower rotational speed during low airflow requirements. The most popular type of ASD is the VFD. the power factor for a motor tends to decrease. The principal advantage offered by VFDs is a closer match between the fluid energy required by the system and the energy delivered to the system by the fan. Unfortunately. However. with a more appropriate fan type. significant energy savings are available if the fan can adequately serve the system at a lower speed. as shown by the following equation: Powerfinal = Powerinitial ( RPM RPMfinal initial ) 3 Consequently. adjusts the fan output more effectively than changing pulley diameters. a smaller motor should be considered. analysis. As the system demand changes. they can also lead to reduced maintenance costs. in turn. However. which can reduce problems and costs associated with reactive power loads. many of the same advantages available from a multiple-speed motor are also available from ASDs. several corrective measures can lower system operating costs and extend equipment maintenance intervals. ASDs. Decreasing Fan Speed. Utilities often assess a charge against industrial facilities that have low power factors. However. Because VFDs do not expose mechanical linkages to potential fouling from contaminants in the airflow. This efficiency loss should be included in any economic A Sourcebook for Industry 35 . VFDs are not practical for all applications. Applications with an oversized. the entire fan/motor assembly could be replaced by a smaller version or. reducing the energy lost across dampers or in excess airflow. Also. One method of reducing fan speed is to adjust the ratio of the pulley diameters for the motor and the fan. There is some efficiency loss above full load rating.

using a VFD simply to slow the fan is probably less cost-effective than using a sheave change-out. a VFD. The average operating efficiencies of controllable pitch fans can equal or exceed those achieved by VFD-powered fans. if used.5–Indications of Oversized Fans fans have resonant frequencies at speeds below their normal operating speeds. 36 Improving Fan System Performance . reducing the start-up load on the motor. will cause damaging vibrations. exposure of the pitch angle linkage to fouling. Controllable-pitch fans allow adjustment of the fan blade angle of attack according to airflow requirements. Where the use of an axial fan is practical. Also. Adjusting this angle of attack changes both the load on the motor and the amount of energy delivered to the airstream. for a belt-driven application where the fan load is relatively constant. if uncorrected. an application that requires an axial fan to meet a peak load while normally operating under much smaller load conditions may be an attractive opportunity to use controllable-pitch blades. The disadvantages of controllable-pitch blades include higher initial cost. Controllable Pitch Fans. should be programmed to avoid operating at these frequencies. Because slowing a fan increases the risk of encountering one of these conditions. Consequently. and providing constant motor speed operation. see the fact sheet titled Controlling Fans with Variable Loads on page 43. For more information. and the potential efficiency and power factor effects that accompany operating a motor below one-half of its rated capacity. Advantages of controllable-pitch fans include allowing the fan to operate over a wide range of airflow requirements. the selection of one with variablepitch fan blades can provide several advantages. Operating at these resonant speeds can cause high vibration levels that.

etc. in some applications. Relative humidity. which represents leakage in cubic feet per minute (cfm) per 100 square feet of duct surface area. Failure to account for leakage can result in an under-performing system. To determine the correct leakage class in a duct system. the system curve becomes steeper. one must know how the ducts were A Sourcebook for Industry 37 . designers who focus on initial costs without considering the costs due to leakage can specify a system that uses far more energy than necessary.6–System Leaks System Leaks ◆ Basic Principle Leakage is a common characteristic of most duct systems. CL factors range from 48 for unsealed rectangular ducts to 3 for sealed. One of the principal operating consequences of installing an oversized fan is higher duct pressure. Under an assumption that the system curve does not change because of the leaks. Costs of Leakage. For example. As the dampers are throttled to create a higher pressure loss. Often. and joints loosen from vibrations or inadequate support (for example. Leakage Class. and how the leaks affect the system curve. The combined result of these factors is that rectangular ducts tend to have higher leakage rates than round ducts. particulate content. Different duct types have different leakage rates. heat. Because system leakage can be a significant operating cost. the costs of leakage can include more than just the fan power. the airflow delivered to the end uses is often extensively conditioned. Rectangular ducts also have more surface area than round ducts with an equivalent cross-section. Leakage classes are denoted by the term CL. Also. dehumidifiers. The higher pressure upstream of the dampers leads to increases in leakage. particularly those that require precise environmental control. System leakage is also largely dependent upon the pressure in the duct. System leakage tends to increase as the systems age. joint assembly techniques. Gaskets dry and lose their sealing properties. The cost of leakage includes the additional fan power required to generate more airflow to compensate for leakage and. the tightness and quality of the fittings. a 5 percent increase in airflow would require a 5 percent increase in fan speed and a 16 percent increase in power because of the fan law relationship between fan speed and power. it should be a consideration during the design of a system and the selection of a fan. and the sealing requirements for duct installation are all factors that designers should consider during the development of engineering drawings that guide system installation. and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment. allowing the fan to operate against a lower backpressure. the system curve. In reality. the joints do not seal as well as those in round ducts. The type of duct. and temperature must often be kept within close tolerances. such as chillers. In many industrial facilities. Leakage decreases the amount of delivered airflow. The higher pressure in the duct system is because of the damper throttling that is required to achieve the proper flow rate. the actual power required to generate this airflow is somewhat lower because the leakage changes the system curve. The leakage of air that has been cleaned and conditioned generally results in an increased load on heating. round ducts. fan power. the power applied to cool. Consequently. calculating the effect of leakage on fan power requires analysis of the fan curve. because rectangular ducts have corners. However. the costs of compensating for leakage in an under-performing system far exceed the incremental costs of installing a “tight” system or locating and repairing a system leak. sagging ductwork). which increases the airflow losses through leaks. ventilation. or filter that air. Much of the leakage cost is attributable to the relationship between fan speed. and the system curve.

and other equipment). which is referenced in the Resources and Tools section on page 68. Installation Practices. ASHRAE 90. A CL of 48 is considered average for unsealed rectangular ducts. Designers should specify mating ductwork and system equipment. where practical. Where: Q = the leakage rate in cubic feet per minute (cfm) per 100 square feet of duct surface area p = average of upstream and downstream static pressure in inches of water gage (in. However. the tape is not recommended for use on metal ducts. wg) in the duct A useful resource for evaluating construction techniques and leakage considerations of ventilation ductwork is the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association. Inc. The following equation forms the basis for the leakage classes: CL = Q p0. Another useful resource is a standard maintained by the American Society of Heating. also referenced on page 68. Further information can be found in the HVAC Air Duct Leakage Test Manual. installation personnel should follow proper installation practices. requiring integrity tests to verify that the equipment is properly constructed and installed. and wall penetrations are sealed. and terminal boxes. tightness tests pressurize the duct up to its pressure class rating and measure the airflow required to sustain this pressure. In general. then the estimated CL is reduced to 24 (12 for round ducts). Refrigerating. Additionally. designers should set 38 Improving Fan System Performance . Lower leakage classes can be achieved depending on the pressure rating and the construction techniques specified in the assembly drawings. such as access doors. dampers. Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings. this standard provides guidelines for sealing ducts and test requirements for checking leakage. wg. In addition to designing systems to minimize leakage. Poorly constructed dampers or improper sourcing of fittings promotes system leakage. should be selected. then the leakage classes drop to 6 for rectangular ducts (3 for round ducts). If all joints. aluminum foil pressure-sensitive tape may be specified for the connection of fibrous glass duct to metal fittings (sleeves. Tightness Tests.65 maximum allowable leakage rates for systems and equipment. if the transverse joints in rectangular ducts are sealed. Systems should be sealed with the right type of sealant for the application. The tightness of system fittings and equipment. wg or less. In an effort to promote energy-efficient building design and construction practices. Fittings and Equipment. because there are essentially no adequate industry performance standards for cloth and vinyl pressure-sensitive tape. To ensure proper installation of duct systems. is also an important consideration. the use of pressure-sensitive tape on metal duct collars may be prescribed for the connection of flexible duct materials to metal duct collars. as much of the system as practical should be evaluated. Sealants that are compatible with the service conditions. such as temperature and moisture. galvanized steel ducts and fittings. so that joints fit tightly. Also. particularly where operating pressures are 1 in. For example. seams. tightness tests should be performed.1. In general.6–System Leaks assembled. terminals. and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) titled. for flexible ducts. Although tightness checks are often not feasible on every part of the system. (SMACNA). especially in systems where pressures exceed 2 or 3 in. This is largely because of the ability of the tape to hold well on clean.

During the system design phase. and noisy system operation. Fan Inlet. Inadequate attention to duct conditions during the design phase increases operating costs./min. Non-uniform air patterns cause fans and system components to display flow/pressure-drop characteristics that are different from the manufacturer-supplied data. Devices such as variable inlet guide vanes adjust an airflow pattern entering a fan to change the amount of flow energy transferred by the fan. Although it tends ∆p = C Where: V ( 1. In fact. these swirls can result from locating elbows too close to a fan inlet. is a dimensionless indicator of flow resistance.7–Configurations to Improve Fan System Efficiency Configurations to Improve Fan System Efficiency ◆ Basic Principle Flow patterns have a substantial impact on fan output and system resistance. the coefficient becomes less accurate as an indicator. wg) C = local loss coefficient V = velocity of the airstream in feet per minute (ft. ◆ Design Practices Many fan performance problems can be avoided by designing the system so that the inlet and outlet ducts to and from the fan are as straight as possible within the physical constraints of the available space. an airflow straightener. performance data that is gathered under ideal conditions will probably not be repeated in an industrial environment. Because space constraints often do not allow ideal configuration. If possible. can improve fan performance./ft. These differences are attributable to the conditions under which the manufacturer or an independent testing facility tests their products. this sensitivity is used to control fan output in many types of fans. also shown in Figure 2-16. The pressure drop across a component is calculated by the equation: higher than anticipated. A counter-rotating swirl rotates in the opposite direction of an impeller. and components are typically listed in tables provided by manufacturers. Consequently.3) The loss coefficient. fittings.) ρ = density of the airstream in pounds per cubic foot (lbs. Poor airflow conditions at the inlet of a fan decrease the effectiveness and efficiency with which a fan imparts energy to an airstream. C. essentially overpowering the problems associated with a system effect. However. the fan should be configured so that there is enough distance from the closest bend for the airflow to straighten out. Lab conditions tend to create uniform airflows. under non-uniform flow conditions. Designers developing new systems and operators seeking to upgrade or retrofit existing systems can minimize system effect problems by recognizing and avoiding common configurations that aggravate them. Fans and system components are sensitive to the profile of an entering airstream. A pre-rotational swirl in the airflow rotates in the same direction as a fan impeller. As shown in Figure 2-16. system configurations that promote non-uniform flow conditions will create flow resistances that are A Sourcebook for Industry 39 . This swirl creates an additional load on the impeller. This difference is the fundamental reason for including the system effect. The loss coefficient is based on uniform flow into and out of the component. such as turning vanes. This phenomenon reduces the load on the fan and shifts its performance curve down and to the left. designers calculate system resistance curves based on the published loss coefficients for each component. Unfortunately. high operating costs.097 ) 2 ρ ∆p = pressure drop in inches of water gage (in. Loss coefficients for system components such as ducts. However. increased energy use. a common approach to handling uncertainties in system design is to increase the size of the air movers. The consequences of this approach include high equipment costs. leading to under-performing systems.

a flow straightener should be considered. a counter-rotating swirl is an inefficient method of increasing fan pressure. Effect of Elbow Placement Close to a Fan Inlet 40 Improving Fan System Performance .7–Configurations to Improve Fan System Efficiency Placing a fan close to an elbow can create a pre-rotating swirl. Fan Outlet. placing a bend too close to a fan inlet can cause the airflow to enter the fan unevenly. One general guideline is to provide a straight duct length of at least 3 times the duct diameter just prior to the fan inlet. Alternately. Impeller Rotation Impeller Rotation Figure 2-16. General guideline: ensure L > 3D. Swirls and vortices increase the pressure drops of elbows and D D L L Placing a bend too close to a fan inlet can impair fan performance. Another inlet condition that can interfere with fan performance is highly non-uniform flow. Figure 2-17. Poor outlet conditions also contribute to under-performance in fan systems. the fan should be equipped with a factory inlet box. The use of turning vanes can correct the swirl. As shown in Figure 2-17. If this is not possible. which leads to inefficient energy transfer and fan vibrations. Pre-Rotational Swirl to shift a fan’s performance curve upwards.

Figure 2-18. Many problems can be corrected with devices such as turning vanes or airflow straighteners. the outer radius of an elbow requires higher velocity airflow than the inside edge (because the airflow has farther to travel). L L Placing the fan and the downstream elbow such that the airstream reverses the direction creates a high loss through the elbow and can impair fan performance. fans should be oriented so that the airflow profile out of a fan matches the airflow behavior created by fittings such as an elbow. Airflow Straighteners and Splitters. As shown in Figure 2-18. flow splitters can prevent highly D D Make sure there is sufficient distance between the fan and the tee for the flow to straighten out. which is consistent with the airflow profile leaving a centrifugal fan. For example.7–Configurations to Improve Fan System Efficiency other duct fittings and can lead to inadequate service to one or more system branches. Also as shown in Figure 2-18. where possible. If space constraints make this impossible. General guideline: ensure L > 3D. Changing the configuration to accommodate the air profile improves system performance. Similarly. as shown in Figure 2-19. Fan Outlet Conditions A Sourcebook for Industry 41 . tees and other fittings should be placed far enough downstream of a fan for the airflow to become more uniform. consider the use of a flow straightener.

however. doubling the duct diameter reduces frictional head loss by a factor of 32. The use of flow straighteners in this case may keep this imbalance from correcting itself before the flow encounters another component. Also. both in terms of duct material and the added structural requirements. Duct Sizing. By properly guiding the airstream into an adjoining duct. friction between the airstream and the duct surfaces accounts for most of the energy consumed by the fan. larger ducts create lower friction losses and lower operating costs. using a systems approach during the design phase can minimize system life-cycle costs. For a given delivery volume. When done far upstream or downstream of a fan. Figure 2-19. the use of a splitter plate is recommended. the effect can be costly. Effect of Placing a Tee Close to a Fan Inlet disturbed airflow from forming in a tee. when they create non-uniform flow into or out of a fan. a non-uniform profile emerging downstream of a tee can correct itself within several diameter lengths of a straight duct. In most fan systems.7–Configurations to Improve Fan System Efficiency Placing the fan inlet too close to the tee can impair fan performance. If space constraints force a close gap. Additionally. In fact. larger ducts take up more space. Although accurately calculating the pressure drop requires detailed knowledge of the duct and airstream characteristics. increasing the diameter of a round duct from 10 inches to 12 inches can reduce friction head loss by 60 percent. For example.) velocity of the air stream (ft. Offsetting the lower operating costs associated with large ducts are higher initial costs. Consequently. The resistance of airflow through a duct is a function of the square of the velocity. some material handling applications require a certain air velocity to ensure proper entrainment. wg) ƒ L D V = = = = = non-dimensional friction coefficient duct length in feet (ft. and the level of turbulence in the airstream. For example. these installation practices may have only a minor impact on system performance. as shown in the following equation: and the friction loss per duct length.) density of the airstream (lbs.3) ◆ Installation Practices Frequently./ft. Although doubling the size of a duct is often not realistic. shifted. however.097 ) V 2 ρ ∆p = pressure drop (in. ∆p = ƒ Where: L D ( 1. duct diameter. making frictional head loss less important than system performance. ρ The friction coefficient (ƒ) depends on the duct surface finish. Striking the right balance between these competing costs requires effort. the relationship between pressure drop and duct size is readily apparent.) duct diameter (ft. installation of a fan system is performed with inadequate regard to the effect of flow profile on fan performance. in a round duct. one of the first checks typically performed on an under-performing fan system is to examine the ductwork around the fan to determine if it is creating the problem. Ductwork is often bent. which may be a problem for certain facilities. such devices should be used with caution. increasing duct diameter decreases both the velocity 42 Improving Fan System Performance . the splitter avoids a highly disrupted airflow profile. thereby creating a problem where one did not previously exist. and dented on site to align connections and to make room for other equipment./min. However.

and. Relative Power Consumption Among Flow Control Options A Sourcebook for Industry 43 . controllable-pitch blades are typically not considered for retrofits. the existing flow control devices are inefficient. Because normal operating conditions are often well below these design conditions. In fan systems that are used relatively infrequently (for example. occupancy. initial cost may be the dominant factor.8–Controlling Fans with Variable Loads Controlling Fans with Variable Loads ◆ Basic Principle Fans often serve over a wide range of operating conditions. and fan speed control. Although these flow control options are available for new fan selection. By increasing system resistance. not all of them can be retrofit into existing fans. Inlet vanes 100 Ou tle tV an es Percent of Full Load Power 60 nes t Va Inle 20 s de Bla ch Pit leab oll ntr Co 20 40 Sp ee dC on tro l Fa nL aw 40 Di sc Th ro ttl e 80 60 80 100 Percent of Full Flow Figure 2-20. To accommodate demand changes. dampers force fans to operate against higher backpressure. 120 In many industrial applications. Consequently. outlet dampers. Dampers provide flow control by changing the restriction in the path of an airstream. Among these problems are high energy costs. less than 500 hours annually). yet the costs associated with their performance are not recognized. For example. fans must operate for extended periods. flow control effectiveness and energy efficiency may be the key determinants. operating below its most efficient point and creating several types of problems. flow control effectiveness. its operating point shifts to the left along its performance curve. fan system operating efficiency is high priority. and production demands. In either case. high system pressures and flow noise. The relative efficiencies of the flow control options are shown in Figure 2-20. flow is controlled by three principal methods: inlet vanes. Dampers. many industrial ventilation systems see variable loads because of changes in ambient conditions. As a fan works against higher backpressure. erosion of impeller and casing surfaces. Inlet vanes are more commonly used with centrifugal fans than axial fans. Many fans are sized to handle the largest expected operating or peak condition. As dampers close. Fans operating away from their best efficiency points suffer increased operating and maintenance costs. in systems with high particulate contents. Each method has a set of advantages and drawbacks in terms of initial cost. In high run-time applications. air-moving equipment is often oversized. Often. and energy efficiency. they reduce the amount of flow and increase pressure on their upstream side. They are often used directly to support production (material handling) or to maintain safe working conditions (ventilation). which reduces their output. the combination of extended operating times and the tendency to oversize the air-moving equipment creates a need for efficient flow control. Inlet Vanes. For example.

and variable frequency drives (VFDs). Consequently. and elimination of the fouling problems associated with mechanical control devices. Because they can reduce both delivered airflow and fan load. By reducing fan rotational speed. An option with some types of axial fans is the incorporation of a variable-pitch feature for the fan blades. 44 Improving Fan System Performance . VFDs are by far the most popular type of ASD. variable-pitch blades can operate from a no-flow to a full-flow condition without stall problems. avoiding the need to jump from speed to speed as required by multiple-speed fans. Multiple-speed motors contain a different set of windings for each motor speed. ◆ Advantages of VFDs For many systems. Although this fan design characteristic is not common. Variable-pitch fans allow the fan blades to tilt. at lower airflow rates. multiple-speed motors provide a wide range of fan output within a single unit. fluid couplings. less energy is imparted to the airstream. changing the angle of attack between the incoming airflow and the blade. Although both directly control fan output. Variable-pitch fans can be a very efficient flow control option and offer several performance advantages. Depending on the application. largely because of their proven effectiveness in reducing energy costs. Although they are more expensive than single-speed motors. As the plate moves. reducing the torque required to accelerate the fan to normal operating speed. During start-up. Disadvantages of this flow-control option include potential fouling problems because of contaminant accumulation in the mechanical actuator that controls the blades. ASDs include several different types of mechanical and electrical systems. VFDs offer a way to improve fan operating efficiency over a wide range of operating conditions. wound rotor motor controllers. ability to retrofit to existing motors. inlet vanes essentially change the fan curve. Because variable-pitch fans maintain their normal operating speed. and low settings. There are two primary devices used to control fan rotational speed: multiple-speed motors and adjustable speed drives (ASDs). the fan blades can be shifted to a low angle of attack. its simple design may be feasible in some applications. avoiding the need for multiple fans. Inlet vanes create swirls that rotate in the same direction as a fan impeller. and adjustable belts and pulleys. Mechanical ASDs include hydraulic clutches. Among the primary reasons for selecting VFDs are improved flow control. Reducing the angle of attack reduces both the airflow and the load on the motor. Electrical ASDs include eddy current clutches. In some centrifugal fan designs. Fan Rotational Speed Adjustments. it changes the amount of impeller width that is exposed to the airstream. because motor efficiency and power factor degrade significantly at loads below 50 percent of rated capacity. operating at low loads for long periods may not provide efficiency advantages and can incur a low power factor charge from the utility. which lowers the load on the fan and reduces fan pressure and airflow. medium. a motor controller may have high.8–Controlling Fans with Variable Loads change the profile of an airstream entering a fan. variable-pitch fans can keep fan efficiency high over a range of operating conditions. inlet vanes become less efficient. multiple-speed motors and ASDs typically serve separate applications. the generated airflow can be controlled by changing the effective width of the impeller using a sliding throttle plate. their compact space advantages. VFDs also provide an effective and easy method of controlling airflow. Variable-Pitch Fans. Additionally. For example. switching from one discrete setting to another may provide a sufficient level of speed control. Also. These pre-rotating swirls lessen the angle of attack between the incoming air and the fan blades. however. By changing the severity of the inlet swirl. they avoid resonance problems that can be problematic for certain fan types. inlet vanes can improve fan efficiency. Disc Throttle. which means less energy must be dissipated by the system airflow-control devices. Inlet vanes are particularly cost effective when the airflow demand varies between 80 and 100 percent of full flow. Fan rotational speed adjustments provide the most efficient means of controlling fan flow. ASDs allow fan rotational speed adjustments over a continuous range.

In contrast. programming the VFDs accordingly often requires input from the VFD manufacturers. in turn. by analyzing the entire system. By limiting start-up current. Other System Benefits. ◆ Disadvantages of VFDs Although VFDs offer a number of benefits in terms of lower operating and maintenance costs. A Sourcebook for Industry 45 .8–Controlling Fans with Variable Loads VFDs decrease energy losses by lowering overall system flow. Noise.5 times the normal operating current). they are not appropriate for all applications. in many fan systems. Shafts. bearings. which. Other benefits of VFDs include lower airflow noise. However. VFDs allow the motor to be started with a lower start-up current (usually about 1. VFDs eliminate the reliance on mechanical components. in many systems. Depending on which component of the assembly is in resonance with the fan rotational speed. When fan speed decreases. Another system benefit of VFDs is their soft-start capability. especially in “dirty” airstreams. Using a system perspective to identify areas in which fluid energy is dissipated in non-useful work often reveals opportunities for operating cost reductions. Consequently. VFDs offer substantial savings with respect to the cost-per-unit volume of air moved. VFDs should be programmed to avoid operating near resonant speeds. like most rotating machinery. especially with axial fans and some centrifugal fans. For example. Large start-up currents can create voltage sags that affect the performance of sensitive equipment. they can improve worker comfort. By slowing the fan and lessening the amount of unnecessary energy imparted to the airstream. in these applications. the energy lost in venting excess pressure or dissipating it across dampers can be identified. Soft starting a fan motor also provides a benefit to the electrical distribution system. airflow noise is high enough to require ear protection. With these fans. from annoying noise to destructive failure. such as controllers. To avoid resonance problems. Resonance. the vibrations can cause a wide range of problems. Fans. VFDs can reduce these power quality problems. This requires knowing what these resonant speeds are. Excess fluid energy is primarily dissipated in the form of noise. and foundations are particularly susceptible to problems with resonance. operating a fan at high capacity and then throttling the airflow tends to generate high noise levels. Fans are usually designed so that their normal operating speeds are not near one of these resonant speeds. The effects of operating at resonant speeds can be damaging. providing an essential cost advantage during periods of low system demand. High Static Pressure. Decreasing the rotational speed of a fan too much often risks unstable operation. thus reducing wear on the motor windings and the controller. venting flow does not noticeably affect the backpressure on a fan. Resonance is an operating condition in which the natural frequency of some component coincides with the frequency set up by the rotation. the curves for fan performance and brake horsepower move toward the origin. fan efficiency does not necessarily decline during periods of low flow demand. providing an attractive operational advantage. Similarly. Another concern is the effect of reducing fan speed in a system with high static pressure. decreasing the rotational speed of a fan increases the chances of hitting a resonant speed. VFDs offer operating improvements by allowing higher fan operating efficiency and by increasing system efficiency as well. When a fan’s rotational speed is reduced. However. requires input from the fan manufacturers. most motors experience in-rush currents that are 5 to 6 times higher than normal operating currents. Keeping fan efficiency as high as possible across variations in the system’s flow requirements reduces fan operating costs. are susceptible to resonance problems. consequently. Fan efficiency shifts to the left. Airflow noise can be a significant component of the overall ambient noise in a workplace. In fact. During start-up. Because VFDs decrease airflow noise during low system demand. careful review of the performance curves should precede the selection of a VFD. such as backwardinclined airfoil and forward-curved types.

all of these considerations should be included in any feasibility study or system analysis. duct outlets are equipped with normally closed dampers that require a certain amount of static pressure to open them. in many fan systems. VFDs operate by varying the frequency of the electric power supplied to the motor. If a VFD slows the fan so that this static pressure requirement exceeds the pressure generated by the fan. In some VFD applications. A classification of motors known as “inverter-duty” has been developed to improve the matching of VFDs to motors. anticipated energy savings from VFDs are not realized because of incomplete consideration of all the losses associated with a VFD installation. To account for the added winding heat. Finally. These problems are typically correctable with the installation of coils or electrical filters. conventional motors usually must be de-rated by 5 to 10 percent when used with VFDs. in some applications. power quality can also be a concern. operate poorly against shut-off conditions. Although VFDs offer an attractive opportunity to reduce energy consumption in many applications. Although at full capacity VFDs can achieve efficiencies of 98 percent. test data from the manufacturer should be evaluated for the efficiencies at the actual load of the application.8–Controlling Fans with Variable Loads the fan generates less pressure. like many types of turbomachinery. no airflow will be generated and the fan may operate poorly. For example. 46 Improving Fan System Performance . VFDs can also generate electrical noise that interferes with the power quality of the supporting electrical supply. Power Quality. Systems that are sensitive to minor power supply disturbances should be served separately from the VFD power supply. The solid-state switching that accompanies inverter operation can create voltage spikes that increase motor winding temperatures. When considering VFDs. accelerating the rate of insulation degradation. VFD Efficiency. and some fans. their efficiency at partloads is often much lower.

200 rpm). Gear systems can be very robust. Motors are connected to fans either directly. In small horsepower applications (typically less than 5 brake horsepower). cogged V-belts. allowing a fan to operate more reliably and more quietly.800 rpm. by a belt system. because of their added A Sourcebook for Industry 47 . these configurations can provide speed control advantages.1 to 1. translates to nominal operating speeds of 3. they are rarely found in fan applications over 500 hp. Flat belts have a uniform cross-section and transmit power through friction contact with flat pulley surfaces. and lower maintenance. more commonly. using a wedging action to supplement friction-based power transfer. V-belts. and synchronous. through a gearbox.600 rpm. do not allow much flexibility in changing fan speed. Types of Belt Drives. including higher efficiency.15.9–Fan Drive Options Fan Drive Options Fans are typically driven by alternating current (AC) motors. adjustable pitch sheaves can be used. However. Cogged V-belts offer the same advantages as V-belts. The most common class of motors for fan applications is NEMA Design B. each shown in Figure 2-21. meaning that the motors can safely operate at loads between 110 to 115 percent of their horsepower (hp) ratings. The four principal types of belts are flat. ◆ Belt Drives Because the required rotational speed of a fan is usually less than 1. their notched design provides additional flexibility that allows the use of smaller pulleys. and low maintenance. In industrial fan applications. There are advantages and drawbacks to each drive option. the efficiency advantages of direct drives are very attractive.800 rpm. The absence of a belt removes a key maintenance element. However. vaneaxial fans are well-suited for direct-drive applications because the motor often fits conveniently behind the fan hub.800 rpm. or 1. These motors usually have 2 or 4 poles which. reliability. This limits the applications for which they can be used. Because the diameter ratio is variable. they are relatively expensive. direct-drive fans must rotate at the speed of the motor (typically 3. However. on a 60hertz system. At these power levels. Although belt drives are occasionally used in fan applications over 300 hp.600 revolutions per minute (rpm) and 1. the most common motor type is the squirrel-cage induction motor. Although motors with 6 poles or more are used in some fan systems. low cost. affording high reliability—a characteristic that is very important in applications with restricted access to the drive system. belts are used to transfer power from a motor pulley (sheave) to a fan pulley with a larger diameter. Direct drives may be used in applications where space is an important consideration. Service factors range from 1. compact space requirements. however. For example. unlike belt systems. Gear systems have a wide range of efficiencies that depend on gear design and speed ratio. 1. but are useful in a few applications that require special configurations between the fan and motor. or. Understanding how drives are selected can be helpful in correcting problems that are the result of poor design. most large industrial fan applications use fixed diameter sheaves. respectively. This motor type is commonly used because of its characteristic durability. The desired fan rotational speed can be achieved using various pulley sizes according to the following relationship: RPMdriven = RPMdriver x Ddriver Ddriven ◆ Direct Drives Direct drives have several advantages over belt drives. V-belts are an improvement over the flat belt. ◆ Gear Drives Gear drives are not as common as belt or direct drives. Cogged V-belts are slightly more efficient than conventional V-belts. gears.

fan-belt speed should not exceed 48 Improving Fan System Performance . Synchronous belts also require precise alignment. The arc of contact correction factor accounts for the loss in power that results when the belt runs over by less than 180° of the pulley circumference. Because temperature also affects the mechanical strength of a belt. The belt service factor accounts for acceleration loads during start-up and under load changes. such as temperature. the horsepower rating drops off as the arc of contact decreases. which often discourages their use.9–Fan Drive Options Flat Belt V-Belt Cogged V-Belt Synchronous Belt Mesh Contact Figure 2-21. in applications with rapid load changes. Synchronous belts are very noisy. The effect of temperature varies according to the belt material. Synchronous belts transfer torque very quickly and. Consequently. power is related to the cube of fan speed. service factor. The required belt capacity must not only include the horsepower required by the driven load. Further. As shown in Table 2-1. Despite their advantages. Ignoring the belt service factor and arc of contact (see Table 2-1) can lead to undersizing the belts. the cumulative effects of sudden acceleration and deceleration increases wear on the driven machinery and the risk of catastrophic failure. Before selecting or switching to synchronous drives. Rubber contracts at higher temperatures.4. The sensitivity of fan power to speed makes belt-drive sizing an important issue. synchronous belts do not lose efficiency as they wear. Synchronous belts offer many advantages over standard flat belts and V-belts. Belt Speed. one should contact the belt drive vendor and review the history of similar equipment in similar service conditions. synchronous belts must be used with caution. establishing the right fan speed is critical to operating the system efficiently. Different Types of Belts flexibility and the fact that the notched surface transfers force more effectively. Synchronous belts can allow lower belt tension than conventional belts. which may lead to frequent servicing or belt failure. tension and stress increase as the drive system temperature increases. Consequently. synchronous belts are the most efficient type of belt drive because they do not suffer efficiency losses through slip. in belts that have high rubber content. the belt service factor is between 1. it must also account for site-specific factors. the use of cogged V-belts is recommended. Although flow rate is linearly related to fan speed. which is difficult to achieve in some fan applications. In applications where a small arc of contact is unavoidable. In general.2 and 1. For most fans. Belt Sizing Considerations. Synchronous belts have teeth that engage with grooves in the sheave. By using a mesh engagement. and arc of contact. reducing the radial loads on motor and fan bearings and extending their operating lives. Even changes in the slip of an induction motor can create noticeable changes in the power transferred to the airstream. belts should be sized to meet the torque requirements at the highest normal operating temperature.

new belts should be operated under low-load conditions and at normal Correct Incorrect Reasonable slack on the non-drive side of the belt Rotation Loose belt indicated by excessive slack on the drive side Rotation Figure 2-22.79 100° .9–Fan Drive Options Correction factor for horsepower rating for a V-belt according to arc of contact 180° 1 170° . belt dressing only provides a temporary means of reducing noise. Effect of Arc of Contact on V-Belt Horsepower Rating 6. When installing or replacing belts. Belt tension and alignment should be checked periodically (see Figure 2-22). Belt slippage should be corrected by either cleaning the drive system or adjusting belt tension.92 140° . Although some belts can be operated in either direction. Belt dressing is a surface treatment that increases the level of friction between a belt and pulley. Proper belt tension is typically the lowest that prevents a belt from slipping at peak load.74 90° ./min is a good speed value for belt system design. Maintenance Practices.98 160° ./min.500 ft.86 120° . Many manufacturers suggest that to minimize bearing loads and to increase reliability. ensure they are oriented correctly in accordance with the directions of the manufacturer. An important maintenance practice to avoid is the use of belt dressing. Because it masks the fundamental cause of slippage.69 Arc of contact Table 2-1.83 110° .500 feet per minute (ft. Belts are often tagged to show the preferred direction of rotation.).95 150° .89 130° . In high-temperature applications. belt manufacturers often test their belts in one direction and package them with an indication of this direction. Proper Belt Tension A Sourcebook for Industry 49 . up to but no more than 6.

Side wear on a belt will shorten its life. This run-in time increases the creep strength of the belt. To avoid side wear and to evenly load a belt. belt drives are used to allow the motor to operate outside of the harmful service conditions. Access to a motor for maintenance and repairs in a direct-drive fan assembly can also be problematic. erosive or corrosive properties. The limiting factors on speed ratios are the practical size of the pulleys. however. Maximum Practical Speed Ratio. Proper belt installation requires careful alignment and tensioning to ensure that belts wear correctly. contaminants. ◆ Other Considerations Service conditions. in high-temperature applications. the arc of contact between the belt and the drive pulley. Most industrial fanbelt drive applications are limited to speed ratios below 4:1 (the motor speed is 4 times faster that the fan speed). however. High winding temperatures decrease motor efficiency and accelerate the degradation of winding insulation. releasing tension and decreasing the force holding the belt against the sheave. Belt alignment is important to minimize side wear on the belt and to keep the stress on the belt distributed evenly (see Figure 2-23). shortening motor life. which reduces the belt’s ability to transfer power. Alignment. minimize these types of misalignments. can preclude the exposure of motors to the airstream. for small horsepower applications (less than 1 hp). and belt speed. This loss is especially problematic after a belt stretches. complicating tasks such as lubricating and replacing bearings. and moisture. In most severe system environments.9–Fan Drive Options operating temperature for a reasonable period. Improper Alignment 50 Improving Fan System Performance . less heat from the motor windings is rejected to the ambient air. this ratio can be as high as 10:1. Motor performance is closely linked to operating temperature and. Because many direct-drive applications are selected for space-saving reasons. which can “polish” the sheave surface as well as the contact surface of the belt. such as high-temperature. insufficient tension promotes belt slippage. Access. Figure 2-23. A polished sheave surface has a low friction constant. these motors are more expensive and sometimes require external cooling services. Motors can be sealed for protection against the harmful effects of some airstreams. these motors are often located in tight spaces.

each fan must have a back-draft damper installed to prevent recirculation through the fan when it is idle. In a single-fan application. low-speed fan. operating smaller. To allow operation of individual fans in a multiplefan arrangement. In many cases. Lower pressure requirements can decrease the noise generated by fan operation. two smaller fans are less expensive and offer better performance than one relatively large one. By energizing or de-energizing individual fans to meet demand changes. Allowing each fan to operate close to its BEP can provide substantial energy savings. Lower Noise Generation. each fan can be operated more efficiently. ventilation is critical to worker safety. Multiple fans placed in parallel allow units to be energized incrementally to meet the demands of the system. This concern is particularly acute if the service requires the fan to energize and de-energize requirements. Operating a fan away from its BEP can result in higher operating and maintenance costs. Fans used in an induced-draft/forced-draft configuration can minimize the amount of pressurization in a duct or an enclosure. a repair task on that fan requires a system shutdown. In some facilities. Efficiency. Failure of one unit does not force a system shutdown. With a multiple-fan arrangement. As shown in Figure 2-24. a potential advantage of multiple fans is a higher overall efficiency level. The A Sourcebook for Industry 51 . the capacity of the remaining fan or fans may be sufficient for limited production. In addition. ◆ Advantages of Multiple-Fan Arrangements Lower Average Duct Pressure. Although larger motors tend to be more efficient than smaller ones. Although total fan output falls if one of the parallel units fails. Fans configured in series tend to be appropriate for systems that have long ducts or large pressure drops across system components.10–Multiple-Fan Arrangements Multiple-Fan Arrangements ◆ Basic Principle Fans can be combined in series or in parallel as an alternative to using single. With redundant fan configurations. one can be repaired while the others serve the system. In mining and other hazardous work environments. failure of one fan does not necessarily cause the whole process to halt. fan failure can cause the interruption of production work. Redundancy. large fans. Fans placed in parallel can provide several advantages including: ■ High efficiencies across wide variations in system demand ■ Redundancy to mitigate the risk of downtime because of failure or unexpected maintenance. reducing the maximum system pressure can minimize energy losses attributable to system leaks. the series-configurations fans along different points in a system minimize the average static pressure in a duct. Parallel fan configurations may also be a safety requirement in case of a single fan failure. Parallel configurations may be feasible for systems with large changes in air-moving requirements. higher-speed fans close to their BEPs can often achieve a net efficiency advantage over a single. Structural and Electrical Constraints. Large motors have large starting currents that can affect the power supply to other parts of the facility. Because leakage in a duct system depends largely on the pressure difference between inside and outside the system. Two smaller fans in series may be more suitable in terms of structural and electrical requirements than a single one. Wide variations in system demand preclude a single fan from consistently operating close to its best efficiency point (BEP). Advantages of fans in series include: ■ Lower average duct pressure ■ Lower noise generation ■ Lower structural and electrical support existence of backup fans can help avoid production stoppages and may be a safety requirement.

one fan will force another fan to operate far away from its BEP. forward-curved centrifugal fans. differences in the duct configuration can cause one fan to operate 52 Improving Fan System Performance . Lower Duct Pressure Because of Fans Placed in Series relatively often. however. and airfoil fans). Frequent power surges that often accompany the start-up of large motors can create power quality variations that are problematic for numeric controlled machinery and other sensitive equipment. A single fan with an impeller large enough to move the proper amount of air may not fit into the available space or may encounter structural constraints. However. Also.10–Multiple-Fan Arrangements Two Fans in Series System Resistance System Resistance Airflow Pressure Peak Pressure Average Pressure Distance Along Duct Single Fan System Resistance Airflow Peak Pressure Pressure Average Pressure Distance Along Duct Figure 2-24. all fans should be the same type and size. caution should be used to ensure that one fan does not dominate another. Often. Another problem that accompanies parallel operation of fans is instability. Ideally. Instability results from alternate load sharing that can occur below certain airflow rates. fans placed in parallel are the same model so that there is balanced load sharing during periods when all the fans are operating. the combined performance curve of both fans has a region in which there are multiple combinations of airflow from each fan that can ◆ Potential Disadvantages of Multiple-Fan Arrangements When placing centrifugal fans in parallel. In severe cases. against a higher backpressure. the use of multiple fans in parallel may be necessary because of space considerations. This can occur despite the fact that each fan alone is operating outside of its stall region. This problem is especially applicable to fans with unstable operating regions (axial fans. as shown by the shaded region in Figure 2-25.

Although this option is generally less efficient than speed adjustment.000 Flow Rate (cfm) Figure 2-25.000 3. and.10–Multiple-Fan Arrangements 24 22 20 Static Pressure (in.000 14. VFDs adjust fan speed by changing the frequency of the power supplied to the motor.000 8. See the fact sheet titled Controlling Fans with Variable Loads on page 43. controllablepitch fans should be considered to handle varying airflow conditions. and low. it is a relatively simple and inexpensive option that is widely used. Operators can select different speeds. This affects how much energy is added to the airflow. Instability Region Because of Parallel Operation of Identical Fans meet the system needs. according to the system requirement. in the case of axial fans. thus changing the angle of attack.000 Single Fan Curve Region of Instability Combined Fan Curve A 11.000 4. medium. Inlet vanes control fan output by creating a swirl in the airflow before it reaches the fan blades. A Sourcebook for Industry 53 .000 12. The instability results from the fans’ shifting between these multiple combinations (known as “hunting”). as the fans tend to load and unload.000 15. variable frequency drives (VFDs). By changing the angle of attack to the incoming air. wg) 18 16 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 2. VFDs allow speed control over a continuous range. In each of these options. Multispeed motors have separate windings for each speed.000 13.000 18. the system airflow should be kept to the right of Point A. controllable-pitch fan blades. ◆ Other Options Other alternatives that can handle widely varying operating conditions include multiple-speed fans. the amount of airflow generated and the load on the motor can be controlled. To avoid this problem. In applications that use axial fans.000 7.000 10. In addition to creating an annoying noise pattern. such as high.000 9. which allows relatively accurate matching between the system requirements and fan operating speed. This fan type allows the fan blades to tilt away from the incoming airflow.000 5. shown in Figure 2-25. This flow control option is relatively efficient and offers several advantages that are discussed in more detail on page 43. the airflow generated by the fan is adjusted to meet the needs of the system.000 6. this continued hunting increases the wear on the fan drives because of repeated acceleration and deceleration.000 17. inlet vanes.000 16.

54 Improving Fan System Performance .

40 20 0 0 20 40 60 80 100 Percent of Full Load Figure 2-26. 100 80 Percent of Operating Hours 60 ◆ Load Factor Fan economic analyses are primarily affected by the amount of time and the percentage of full capacity at which a fan operates. facility personnel often do not know the annual operating costs of an industrial fan. A more accurate analysis of equipment operation is the load-duty cycle. A significant portion of all energy consumed by motor-driven equipment in manufacturing facilities is for process fans and air distribution. or how much money they could save by improving fan system performance. unless operators maintain comprehensive records or are highly familiar with fan operating data. With any of these methods.11–Fan System Economics Fan System Economics Fan systems are often critical in supporting plant operations. The operating costs of large fans are often high enough that improving fan system efficiency can offer a quick payback. electricity costs can be determined with simple measurements. Of these two components. an estimate of its average load factor—the average percentage of full load that a fan operates over a period of time—must be made. Because the fan usually does not operate at rated full load all the time. In contrast. These long run times translate into significant energy consumption and substantial annual operating costs. including: ■ Direct measurement of motor current or power ■ Use of motor nameplate data ■ Use of performance curve data. ◆ Calculating Electricity Consumption Electricity consumption can be determined by several methods. An example of a load-duty cycle is shown in Figure 2-26. fans help maintain environmental conditions that ensure worker safety and productivity by keeping machinery spaces cool. the data’s usefulness is limited by how representative it is of the average system operating conditions. Because they often directly support production processes. A particularly useful method of estimating these costs is to review the maintenance histories of similar equipment in similar applications. Load-Duty Cycle A Sourcebook for Industry 55 . many fans operate continuously. Fan system operating costs primarily include electricity and maintenance costs. the average load factor may be difficult to determine. maintenance costs are highly dependent on service conditions and need to be evaluated case-by-case. Load-duty cycle refers to the amount of time that equipment operates at various loads relative to its rated capacity and is often used during the system design process. Load factor can be determined from the load-duty cycle. In spite of this. Unfortunately. In many industrial applications.

then it would provide a more accurate indication of actual power consumption. Line voltage is usually measured at the motor controller and should be measured around the same time as the current reading.356 56 Improving Fan System Performance . although motor efficiency drops slightly above the rated load.05/kWh) x (0. by using the nameplate data in combination with load factor and power factor estimates. voltage and current. “Hot” measurement of motor voltage exposes workers to risk and may not be feasible in some industrial environments because of exposure of the power connections to moisture or contaminants.15 continuous service factor. This is also an opportunity to determine if there are phase imbalances. The motors used on most fans have a 1. thanks to the Energy Policy Act. If practical. In some facilities. Wattmeters.95 in the 1/0. which is a reasonable estimate for a fan motor larger than 50 horsepower (hp).05/kWh • Load factor = 65 percent • Motor efficiency = 95 percent For example: • Motor full-load bhp = 100 hp • Annual hours of operation = 8. line voltage drops with increased power usage. the current on each of the three power cables running to the motor should be measured. Motor full-load bhp and efficiency are not required for this calculation.95) x (8. Using a clamp-type ammeter. obviating the need to estimate power factor. however. Sometimes the motor controller is a convenient point to take these readings while. Annual electricity costs can be calculated by inserting this information into the equation found in the Simple Calculation sidebar. the power factor over a range of operating conditions is required. However. if this measurement is not feasible. Nameplate Data. If the fan uses an older motor that has been rewound several times or has a smaller motor. the fan’s annual operating costs can be calculated. Other necessary data include the annual hours of operation (hours/year) and the average annual unit cost of electricity ($/kilowatt-hour [kWh]). Simple Calculation Annual electricity costs = (motor full-load bhp) x (0. However. which has been in effect since October 1997. Such readings should only be taken by properly trained personnel.746 kW/hp) x (1/efficiency) x (annual hours of operation) x (electricity cost in $/kWh) x (load factor) Assumptions: • Cost of electricity = $0. Note that the direct measurement of motor current is not always practical.760 hours (3-shift. the fan/motor assembly is oversized. Direct Measurement. in general. many motor installations do not offer convenient access to both. at other sites. A more accurate way to determine electricity consumption requires taking electrical measurements of both full-load amps and volts. The average of these three readings should be used as the current value. the power factor should be measured with a power meter.95 factor). which means the motor operates well below its full-load nameplate data.65) = $22. simply taking data once will probably not provide a true indication of fan energy consumption. However.746 kW/hp) x (1/0. Newer motors may have even higher efficiencies. This means that a motor with a nominal nameplate rating of 100 brake horsepower (bhp) may be operated continuously up to 115 bhp.11–Fan System Economics In systems with widely varying operating conditions. then a lower motor efficiency should be used. A quick way to determine energy costs is to use the fan motor nameplate data. In many applications. are more difficult to use because they require two simultaneous inputs. Using nameplate data to calculate energy costs on motors that operate above their rated loads will understate actual costs. continuous operation) Annual electricity costs = (100 hp) x (0. This equation assumes the electric motor driving the fan is 95 percent efficient (the 0.760 hours) x ($0. Wattmeters provide a direct reading of real power. if the use of a wattmeter is practical. the connection box on the motor itself is more accessible. then it can be obtained from the motor manufacturer.

732) x (power factor) ÷(1000) x (annual hours of operation) x (electricity cost in $/kWh) x (load factor) Case II.000 Fan Curve 60 50 30 20 10 6.000 Flow Rate (CFM) Flow Rate (cfm) Figure 2-27. The Calculation with Fan Curves sidebar shows how to estimate annual energy cost.000 18.760 hours) x ($0.172 26 24 22 20 18 16 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 2. wg • Reading from the bhp line. multiplying by hours of operation and electricity price. Calculation with Fan Curves Annual electricity costs = Fan bhp/motor efficiency x (annual hours of operation) x (electricity cost in $/kWh) x (load factor) Assumptions: • Fan discharge pressure is known • Motor efficiency = 90 percent • Load factor = 65 percent • $0. the corresponding horsepower reading can be found.563 BHP bhp Power Curve 40 A Sourcebook for Industry 57 . continuous operation) Annual electricity costs = (115 amps) x (460 volts) x (1.000 16. and have different rates depending on the level of consumption or seasons. By taking full-load amps and volts.9) x (8.000 10.760 hours) x ($0. Use of Fan Curves.65) = $22.05/kWh • Load factor = 65 percent • Motor efficiency = 95 percent • Power factor = 0.760 hours (3-shift. Refer to Figure 2-27.05/kWh) x (0.000 8.11–Fan System Economics Direct Measurement Calculation Static Pressure (in wg) Static Pressure (in. The correct method of measuring fan pressure depends on how the fan is configured in the system.85)÷(1000) x (8. These typically include both energy ($/kWh) and demand charges ($/kW). Separately using a voltmeter and an ammeter Annual electricity costs = (full-load amps) x (volts) x (1.65) = $11. Use of Fan Curve to Determine Power Consumption ◆ Energy and Demand Charges— Understanding Your Electricity Bill The calculations shown previously use electricity rates that are stated in terms of average dollars per kWh ($/kWh). annual energy costs can be determined.732) x (0. fan bhp = 49 Annual electricity costs = (49 bhp) x (0. Once the fan operating pressure is known.05/kWh unit electricity cost For example: • Fan discharge pressure = 19 in. However.746 kW/hp) x (1/0.000 4. Use of a Wattmeter Annual electricity costs = Wattmeter reading (using a 3-phase setting) x (annual hours of operation) x (electricity cost in $/kWh) x (load factor) Assumptions: • Cost of electricity = $0.05/kWh) x (0. Demand charges are The Direct Measurement sidebar shows an example calculation of energy costs.000 14.85 For example: • Full-load amps = 115 amps • Voltage = 460 volts • Annual hours of operation = 8. Another method of determining fan power consumption is to take pressure measurements of the airstream and use the fan’s performance curve to determine the corresponding bhp. electric utilities bill industrial customers using more complicated rate structures. wg) Case I. converting them to full-load kilowatt (kW). Figure 2-28 shows different methods of measuring fan pressure.000 12.

To achieve optimum fan system economics. a well-designed system can avoid higherthan-necessary operating costs. 58 Improving Fan System Performance . When the economic impacts of efficiency measures are calculated. and decommissioning. seasonal rates. and avoid expensive failures. Both are intended to improve system reliability.11–Fan System Economics Inlet Total Pressure Fan Total Pressure Ducted Inlet and Outlet Outlet Total Pressure Static Pressure Static Pressure Total Pressure Total Pressure Free Inlet – Ducted Outlet Ducted Inlet – Free Outlet Figure 2-28. ◆ Maintenance Considerations and Life-Cycle Costs In addition to the cost of energy consumption. Predictive maintenance uses diagnostic tools to evaluate machinery condition. users should select equipment based on life-cycle economics and operate and maintain the equipment for peak performance. energy consumption. and different rates for different levels of consumption. taking into account energy and demand charges. Often. A highly efficient fan system is not merely a system with an energy-efficient motor. maintenance. Using a life-cycle cost perspective during initial system design or during the planning of system upgrades and modifications can provide both lower operating costs and improved system reliability. Alternative Methods of Measuring Fan Pressure based on the peak demand for a given month or season and can have significant impacts on electricity costs for some customers. the actual cost of the electricity needs to be considered. the dominant components of lifecycle cost include initial equipment cost. reduce the risk of unplanned downtime. maintenance costs can be a significant portion of a fan system’s total operating costs. allowing effective planning of repair or replacement tasks. There are two principal types of maintenance: preventive and predictive. accepting the lowest bid for a component. Preventive maintenance generally refers to the use of a schedule to perform inspections and replacement tasks. In much the same way that preventive and predictive maintenance schedules minimize expensive repairs. For fan applications. while ignoring system efficiency. users are only concerned with initial cost. Overall system efficiency is the key to maximum cost savings.